Coming off of a thrilling 66-61 weekend win against UC Santa Barbara (8-9, 3-1) the Highlanders were looking to establish a winning streak against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (4-11,1-3) on Thursday, Jan. 23. Although three Highlanders were able to post double figure scoring nights, a lackluster offensive line in the final quarter allowed the Mustangs to mount a comeback. In the end, UC Riverside (6-12, 2-2) fell 75-70 away from home against a determined Cal Poly.
The first half of the match was all Riverside. The Highlanders were able to shoot 54% from the field, with 15 of their 38 points coming from beyond the three-point line. At the end of the initial 20 minutes, UCR went into halftime with a 38-30 lead over Cal Poly.
Senior guard Jannon Otto led the way for the Highlanders with 17 points and six rebounds. Otto was able to maintain the same level of play from her big night against UC Davis. Junior guard Keilanei Cooper contributed 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The third Highlander to score in double digits was senior forward Marina Ewodo, who finished with 16 points.
Although UCR was able to maintain a steady lead for the majority of the second half, it never increased past double digits. It was a lack of concentration on the free-throw line that began to diminish UCR’s lead single points at a time. Although the Highlanders were leading the conference in free-throw percentage (.742) prior, this match saw them deviate from their previous matches and go 7-14.
The momentum shifted toward Cal Poly in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter. With a 70-66 lead in favor of the Highlanders, Cal Poly’s freshman guard Abbey Ellis and junior forward Sierra Campisano stepped up to combine for the final nine points of the match. The Highlanders were unable to respond properly. UCR missed their three final shots while also committing two turnovers on their final possessions.
A similar battle on the court ensued as they hosted Hawaii (9-10, 3-3) on Saturday, Jan. 25. Although the Highlanders trailed for the majority of the first half, a half-time energy burst led to a 15-5 run that brought them within two of Hawaii at 40-38. UC Riverside was able to erase a 12-point deficit from the first half.
The Highlanders were adamant on staying in the game. Late in the fourth, with under two minutes of play, UCR was only four away from Hawaii at 61-57. On a loose ball, sophomore guard Lauryn Pointer was penalized with a flagrant foul. Hawaii capitalized on a pair of free-throws, essentially securing the victory.
Otto demonstrated her consistency, scoring even more than in her previous outing as she led with 21 points and six rebounds. Ewodo’s offensive creativity also led to her scoring 16 points and 12 rebounds, earning her third double-double of the season.
The Highlanders will be on the road again as they take on Long Beach State (8-10, 3-2) on Thursday, Jan. 30.