The UC Riverside women’s basketball team was slated to have an easier portion of the schedule coming up with games against the Cal Poly San Louis Obispo and Cal State Fullerton Titans — two bottom feeders in the Big West Conference. The slate initially proved easy as the team crushed the woeful Titans on Thursday, 90-43. However, the Highlanders underwent a bit of unexpected adversity, as the endured an inspired effort from the below .500 Mustangs on Saturday, yet still emerged victorious, 75-62.
Against Fullerton, senior guard Brittany Crain — the team’s leading scorer on the season at 21 points per game — scored a career-high 39 points and added six rebounds. She made seven of 10 from beyond the arc, also a career high for Crain. Crain’s career night also held a historical significance on a program level, as she became UCR’s career leader in three-point field goals and moved into second place on the school’s all-time scoring list.
The Highlanders’ defense was also stifling; the Titans shot only 26 percent from the field, had no player score in double figures and made less field goals as a team all evening (14) than Crain herself (15). The Titans only managed four assists to their 20 turnovers, which turned into 26 Highlander points, and the game was blown wide open by a 36-6 second quarter in favor of UCR.
Saturday was a completely different story, as the Mustangs turned out to be far stiffer competition. The Highlanders only managed 13 first-quarter points and faced a seven-point deficit early, but were able to find their touch on the way to finishing the game, shooting 50 percent from the field. Despite such a solid shooting mark, the Mustangs were able to keep a small fragment of their first-quarter lead for a long period of time, but the Highlanders were able to take a lead with 3:13 left in the third quarter. The Highlanders did not look back from there, and the fatigued Mustangs simply could not keep up with UCR in the final quarter.
After keeping up with the Highlanders early by shooting 51.6 percent from the field in the first half, the Mustangs only shot 10-36 in the second half, and were outscored 23-11 in the fourth. Crain continued her offensive torrent, scoring 26 points, and Simone DeCoud added a career-high 24 for the Highlanders.
The week proved to be theme of accomplishments for UCR as the Highlanders two wins on the week helped them to remain undefeated in conference play for the longest streak in school history. Even greater, the team managed to pick up both wins without senior Annelise Ito, who is third on the team in scoring at 13.9 points per game. As a team, the Highlanders now stand at 17-7 on the year with six regular season games remaining and are perennial favorites to take home a conference championship come March.