Courtesy of UCR Athletics

Just a day after Thanksgiving and fresh off a win over the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, the UC Riverside Women’s Basketball (2-4, 0-0) team travelled to Moraga, CA for the Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic.

The Highlanders faced a big test to open up their weekend, facing the AP #3 ranked Oregon Ducks (5-0, 0-0), who were on a roll after two consecutive wins of at least 20 points.

However, their first game did not go well at all. The Highlanders struggled from the onset, as they trailed by 9-0 early in the first quarter, and continued to fall behind by as many as 13. The Ducks consistently scored inside, and ended the game with 40 points in the paint while limiting the Highlanders to just 18. Defensively, the Highlanders entered the game fifth in the nation in blocked shots with 35, but had just one the entire game.

UCR struggled to figure out Oregon’s pressure defense, committing nine turnovers while shooting 8-for-23 in the first half alone. The Highlanders also scored just seven points in the second quarter, while allowing 29 points in the period on a scorching 65 percent clip.

The second half featured more of the same, as the Ducks pushed the lead to 46 points after three quarters, before finishing with a 50 point blowout win, 94-44.

Freshman guard Lauryn Pointer led UCR with nine points on 3-for-5 shooting, while also grabbing five rebounds.

Oregon junior forward Ruthy Hebard finished with a game-high 19 points on an efficient 8-for-9 shooting. Sophomore forward Satou Sabally also chipped in 17 points, and junior guard Sabrina Ionescu fell short of breaking the NCAA Women’s career triple-double record, finishing with 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.

The Highlanders did not have long to mull over the blowout loss, and their attention turned to the Milwaukee Panthers (2-4, 0-0) the following afternoon, who were fresh off a close two point loss to tournament host St. Mary’s in their previous game.

UCR appeared to have righted the ship, keeping pace with Milwaukee in the first quarter and trailed only 15-12 after the first quarter.

In the second period, UCR got into rhythm, using a 16-6 scoring burst, to take a 36-28 lead into halftime. At this point, the Highlanders shot 47.1 percent from the field, and 50 percent from beyond the arc, while limiting the Panthers to 39 percent field goal shooting and 22 percent from three.

After the break, the Highlanders began to falter. Shooting just 19 percent from the field in the third period, UCR managed to score just six points, and did not score their first points until halfway through the quarter. Despite this, they managed to hold a slim 42-41 lead heading into the final frame.

In the fourth quarter, Milwaukee grinded their way back in front early, and held a late 54-53 lead with 26 seconds to go. However, a late whistle sent sophomore guard Keilanei Cooper to the free throw line with 17 seconds left. She only managed to convert on 1-of-2 attempts, and the game was tied.

Right as it seemed the game was headed for overtime, the Panthers’ redshirt senior forward Ryaen Johnson tipped in a miss by redshirt sophomore Bre Cera at the buzzer to give Milwaukee a 56-54 win.

Senior forward Malou De Kregert finished with a game-high-tying 18 points for the Highlanders, and junior guard Jamie Reit also scored 18 points for the Panthers.

Up next, UCR have two weeks off before returning to Riverside for a crosstown matchup at CBU Events Center against the Cal Baptist Lancers Thursday, Dec. 6.

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