Women’s basketball tips off conference play with a nail biting victory over UC Davis

Martin Lopez /HIGHLANDER

The UCR women’s basketball team (5-10, 1-0) defeated UC Davis (5-9, 0-1) in a close game on Thursday, Jan. 9 at the SRC Arena on Diabetic Awareness night. The 75-70 victory was part of a UCR-UC Davis doubleheader, as men’s basketball also won their season opener against UC Davis on the road, starting Big West conference play on an exciting note for both teams. 

The game started with a low scoring first half where neither team was able to secure a significant lead. UCR came out hot in the second half with sharp shooting to accompany their continued aggressive defense and gained a 14-point lead, 48-34. However, the Aggies were able to close the gap with a nine-to-two scoring run and went into the final quarter of the game trailing 50-43. 

The fourth quarter saw another Aggie scoring rally met by key three-pointers from Riverside senior guard Jannon Otto and sophomore guard Lauryn Pointer to keep the score close. With only 30 seconds left in the game, the score was 72-70 with the Highlanders holding onto a narrow lead. The Highlander victory was sealed as Jannon Otto made both of her free throws after being fouled by Davis freshman guard Evanne Turner on a fastbreak attempt.

UC Davis leads the conference in three-point field goal percentage and gave UCR a hard time as they attempted a whopping 32 three-point attempts. “During previous games in pre season when things weren’t going our way we would tend to fold and get down ourselves. In this game, things weren’t going well. They made that little run and we did not fold. We stayed strong,” Head Coach Seyram Bell said in a post-game interview with The Highlander. Otto echoed that sentiment, saying, “We just played hard. Obviously we went through a little struggle there in the fourth quarter but I feel like we just kept fighting as a team.” Davis junior guard Mackenzie Trpcic was especially impactful, scoring all 15 of her points from behind the three-point line. 

Otto led the team in scoring with 26 points while also grabbing nine rebounds. This game was especially significant for Otto as she is a type 1 diabetic, and was able to use her platform to spread awareness and set an example for others diagnosed with diabetes. “I feel like it’s really special that they did that … I think they had American Diabetes Association tabling so it’s cool to spread awareness about that and just let them know they can do this too,” Otto said. 

Three other Highlanders scored in double figures: junior guard Keilanei Cooper with 13 points and 10 rebounds, senior forward Marina Ewodo with 15 points and seven rebounds and Lauryn Pointer who finished with 10 points. 

Next, the Highlanders will travel to Manoa and face the University of Hawaii (6-9, 0-2) for the second game of official conference play on Thursday, Jan 16 at 7:30 p.m.