Martin Lopez/HIGHLANDER

After a tightly contested matchup that had 10 ties and five lead changes, the UC Riverside women’s basketball team (11-11, 5-3) went down to the wire against Cal State Fullerton (11-10, 5-3), but came out on top 62-59.

“It was a game of runs,” Head Coach John Margaritis said in reaction to the back and forth game, “We just never really generated anything inside. We didn’t get to the free throw line. They stayed in their zone and we didn’t make enough outside shots to pull away.”

Big West Player of the Week Jannon Otto (redshirt junior) had a lot to do with the offensive run the Highlanders had going early on. Otto attributed for 11 of the Highlanders’ 23 points in the first quarter, shooting 5-for-7 from the field in the opening period.

Then, like Margaritis hinted at, the Titans went on a run of their own as UC Riverside went cold in the second quarter, shooting just 25 percent (4-for-16). A combination of factors settled in, with CSUF forcing some turnovers with their full court press, Otto being held scoreless in this period and Fullerton’s Daeja Smith giving the Highlanders some trouble down low. CSUF’s center finished the half with 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting.

After coming out of halftime, the home team doubled up on Smith, and ended up holding her scoreless for the remainder of regulation. From here, Riverside opened up a 6-0 run, and took their largest lead of the game after senior Malou De Kergret hit a 12-footer to give her team a 47-37 advantage with 3:50 left in the third.

However, De Kergret found herself in foul trouble, and eventually fouled out with just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter. As soon as the Highlander’s team captain sat out the remainder of the game, the Titans tied the contest at 53 points apiece. But sophomore Keilanei Cooper stepped in by knocking down back-to-back threes, one of which happened as the shot clock expired. The Highlanders held a 59-53 lead at this point.

But a pair of threes from CSUF’s Raina Perez, and a jumper from Jannon Otto, saw the game score at 61-59 in UCR’s favor. The Titans ran a screen and roll play that gave Smith a wide-open look underneath the basket to tie the game, but she missed it. Fortunately for the visitors, Amiee Book got the rebound and was fouled, giving her an opportunity to tie the game. Fortunately for the home team, Book missed both attempts at the line.

Even after all of that, a missed free throw by Otto gave Fullerton yet another opportunity to tie the game with five seconds left. Thompson came off a back screen under the basket to fire a corner three, but was just off the mark as Riverside escaped with a win, 62-59.

The Highlanders next face conference-leading UC Davis on Thursday, Feb. 14. Riverside looks to avenge their 67-59 loss to the Aggies at home on Jan. 5, as well as extend their win streak to five games.

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