The UC Riverside women’s basketball team (1-3) narrowly lost 61-55 to the University of South Dakota (4-1) on the evening of Friday, Nov. 25 at the SRC arena.
UCR started the game off well, leading 21-16 after the first quarter. However, South Dakota found their stride late in the second quarter, outscoring the Highlanders by eight points to close the half with a 35-32 lead. The same trend occurred in the third quarter as South Dakota outscored UCR by six points to end the third period.
After trailing by nine points after three quarters, UCR rallied back in the fourth, cutting the score to 57-55 with 2:12 left in regulation. However, the Highlanders’ comeback ultimately came up short, as they failed to convert their last five shots in crunch time.
Fourth-year forward Rejane Verin led the team with a season-high 23 points on 59 percent shooting — scoring 14 of those points in the first half. The South Dakota Coyotes were led by sophomore Allison Arens, who put up 27 points on 10-13 shooting from the field.
Turnovers, however, were not a huge issue for the Highlanders. In fact, UCR as a team committed only six turnovers compared to South Dakota’s 17.
But, the Highlanders struggled in the paint, as a majority of the game’s points came from inside the arc. The Coyotes outscored Riverside 34-28 in the paint, as well as off of second chance points, putting up 15 points as opposed to Riverside’s seven. UCR was also pummelled on the glass, being out-rebounded 43-27. Both teams did not have an efficient shooting night from beyond the arc, as the Highlanders shot three of 16 from three-point range, and South Dakota shot five of 22.
UCR hopes to build off their heavy amount of success they experienced last season — especially in conference play. The Highlanders won 23 games overall with only nine losses, as well as going undefeated (16-0) in playing Big West opponents. Though their regular season play was astonishing, the Highlanders surely would take a Big West Tournament win over a dominating regular-season conference record. Even after sweeping UC Davis in both matchups last season, the Aggies managed to pull off an upset in the semifinal round of the conference tournament. As previously seen in professional basketball early this year (cue the Warriors 3-1 jokes), how a team finishes a season holds greater value than how a team starts it.
Coming off of a stellar junior season, Verin is likely aiming to improve off of last season’s statistics. Verin was named First Team All-Conference last year, averaging the second-highest points in the Big West with 17 points per game as well as putting up 8.6 rebounds per game. She was also named Big West Player of the Week on four occasions. On top of that, she led the Highlanders in field goal percentage, assists, rebounding, steals and blocked shots.
UCR next plays at home on Tuesday, Nov. 29, hosting Grand Canyon University at 7 p.m. The Highlanders played GCU in Phoenix last season, blowing them out in an 85-67 win.