On Thursday, Jan. 16, the Highlanders (6-11, 2-1) made their way to Hawaii to play against the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (8-9, 2-2), where they suffered a defeat. The final score was 80-57, in favor of Hawaii.
The Highlanders struggled offensively from the beginning of the game. While they managed to put up a couple baskets, a majority of their shots didn’t connect and they went 11-33 from the field during the first half. The first quarter ended with the Highlanders trailing behind Hawaii, 23-7, and at halftime, they were down 46-23.
UCR improved their offense in the second half of the game, outscoring Hawaii 14-7 in the first seven minutes of the third quarter and bringing it down to a 15 point difference at 53-38. But this was not enough against Hawaii, as their defense forced the Highlanders to turn the ball over 13 times. While UCR outrebounded the Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii still edged them out offensively, shooting 48.4% from the field. Hawaii also outran UCR throughout the game with nine fastbreak points versus UCR’s two.
The top scorer of the night for the Highlanders was senior guard Jannon Otto, who finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. For Hawaii, junior guard Julissa Tago led the charge with 25 points and four rebounds, with eight players from Hawaii’s team contributing five points or more and the bench adding a total of 23 points.
The Highlanders shook off their loss against Hawaii with a home game against UC Santa Barbara (7-10, 2-2) last Saturday, Jan. 18. The Highlanders shot 45.6% from the field to secure the win over UCSB, with a final score of 61-66.
UCR dominated the Gauchos during the first half, going on a 6-0 scoring spree at the beginning of the first quarter. In the middle of the first quarter it was announced that Otto had officially scored her 1,000th point of her college career. This only further encouraged the Highlanders to push their lead to 18 points going into halftime.
UCSB did not go down without a fight, however. During the second half, the Gauchos sent UCR scrambling defensively. The Gauchos outrebounded the Highlanders 41-34 and matched UCR in steals. They fought and brought UCR’s lead down to a mere three points.
In an interview with The Highlander, Head Coach Seyram Bell said, “I thought we did a good job with our effort level. I think we kind of missed some things, we didn’t execute defensively and we missed some things offensively but I think those adjustments we can make.”
As the gap closed, both teams began to foul more with 19 and 20 personal fouls for UCSB and UCR respectively. Toward the end, UCSB’s Coco Miller and Ila Lane both had to be pulled out of the game with four fouls each, which hurt the Gaucho’s chances because Miller and Lane were their top scorers of the night, with 16 and 15 points, respectively.
UCR’s junior guard Keilanei Cooper dominated the court with 23 points and seven rebounds with support from Marina Ewodo and Otto with 17 and 14 points, respectively. Cooper was also the one to close off the night with the final six points to ensure their win.
“One of our goals for the future is to focus for the 40 minutes and to lock in and execute the game plan. Sometimes we tend to drift off and do our own things and we need to remain focused and executing offensively and defensively,” stated Bell.
The Highlander’s next game will be on the road against the Cal Poly Pomona Mustangs (3-11, 0-3) on Thursday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m.