The UC Riverside women’s basketball team split their pair of home games this week, losing 71- 55 to the University of Pennsylvania on Monday Jan. 2 before redeeming themselves the following Saturday with a 76-58 handling of UC Irvine in the Highlanders’ (7-7) Big West conference opener.
On Monday, the Highlanders’ struggle to hit the 3-pointer made it difficult for them to keep up with the sharpshooters from Penn (7-4), making only 3-12 from beyond the arc compared to a 12-26 performance from the Quakers. The Highlanders kept the score close for much of the game, but could never manage to truly close the gap, losing steam and letting the deficit grow to double digits in the fourth quarter. Malou de Kergret led the Highlanders with 16 points on the night and Skylar Lewis was not far behind with 14 points to go along with six rebounds. Rejane Verin chipped in 12 points with seven rebounds and seven assists, but only shot five for 13 from the field. For Penn, Phoebe Sterba made five of her six 3-point attempts on her way to 15 points to lead the Quakers.
Early on, UCR’s performance against the Anteaters of UC Irvine seemed like a continuation from the fourth quarter struggles against Penn, making only three of their 17 first quarter field goals on the way to an early 18-6 deficit. However, the Highlanders made adjustments on defense to check Andee Ritter, who led all scorers on the night with 23 points to go with 7-14 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Highlanders also did this without losing sight of Anteater leading scorer Shereen Sutherland, who struggled all night with UCR’s physicality on the inside on the way to nine points on 3-12 shooting. Offensively, the Highlanders struggled to solve Irvine’s press early, but they began to hit their stride heading into half-time, scoring eight quick points to cut the lead to one entering the locker room.
From then on, the Highlanders would not be denied. They began dictating the pace of the game and broke Irvine from their press, forcing them into a half court defense that UCR dissected. The Anteaters were also shut down by the Highlander defense, shooting only 30.3 percent from the field in the second half. Over the final three quarters of the game, the Highlanders outscored the Anteaters 70-40.
Rejane Verin was on the way to a triple-double for the Highlanders, leading the team with 21 points including 16 second-half points to go along with 10 rebounds and seven assists. Lauren Holt, who caught fire toward the end of the first half was not far behind with 20 points for UCR, who had five players score at least eight points.
The win extended a 17-game regular season conference winning streak dating back to the Highlanders’ perfect 2015-16 Big West campaign. UCR will look to continue the streak Thursday, Jan. 12 when they host Cal Poly San Luis Obispo at 5 p.m. Following the game, the Highlanders will receive their 2016 Big West Conference Championship rings during halftime of the men’s basketball game against UC Davis, which begins at 8 p.m.