UC Riverside (15-14, 9-6) lost their final home game to Hawaii (13-15, 9-6) by a final score of 51-44 on Thursday, March 7. This was a critical loss for the Highlanders because they are currently battling for seeding in the upcoming Big West Tournament. Because of the loss, second place in the conference is out of the picture but placing third will ensure the Highlanders will secure a first-round bye scenario.
The Highlanders were without their leading scorer, junior guard Jannon Otto, who is out after suffering an ankle injury during the game against UC Irvine.
Despite Otto’s injury, Head Coach John Margaritis still utilized a shorter rotation and relied heavily on his starters.
“Just being short-handed caught up to us a little bit. You would think that it just takes putting five players on court. But when you have the third-leading scorer in the conference not playing and someone who produces 20 points a game and does other things, it does play a factor. We knew going in that we had to overcome her (Otto’s) injury and we just could not do that tonight,” Margaritis said.
Senior forward Malou De Kergret led the Highlanders in scoring with 17 points, four rebounds and four assists. It was a special night for De Kergret because it was senior night and her parents were at the game, flying in from France. However, she did not get caught up in the hype of senior night nor did she let the occasion dictate her emotions or performance on the court.
“It was just a regular game for me really. I thought it might be different but it was really not. It was just a game that I wanted to win and it wasn’t very emotional because we lost. My goal on the court is to just get the win and compete every night,” De Kergret said in a post-game interview.
Only one other player reached double-digit scoring for the Highlanders. Junior Marina Ewodo rounded out the stat sheet with 10 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals.
The Rainbow Wahine were led by freshman Myrrah Joseph as she scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds while senior Tia Kanoa added 11 points and five assists.
On Saturday, March 9 against Cal State Fullerton, UC Riverside overcame a 17-point deficit to win their final regular season game. The final score was 75-67.
It was an all-around team effort as four Highlanders scored in double figures. Ewodo scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, sophomore guard Keilanei Cooper and De Kergret each scored 17 points apiece and Daphne Gnago added a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds.
They will play in the Big West Tournament on the road starting March 12 with their opponent currently to be decided as the remaining teams battle for the tournament seeding.