On Saturday, Feb. 15, the UC Riverside women’s basketball team (8-16, 4-6) battled against Long Beach State University (11-13, 6-5). The final score was 58-57, with the Highlanders getting the win in a nail-biting victory. Earlier in the season, on Jan. 30, the Highlanders suffered a double overtime loss to the Beach, with UCR losing 73-67.
Before the game, members of the audience received pink shirts as the team honored those who lost their lives to breast cancer. The UCR women’s basketball team also wore pink and white warmup shirts and jerseys.
The Highlanders started the game strong, as they made basket after basket, while holding Long Beach’s offense to only 16% shooting from the field. Consecutive jumpers by senior guard Jannon Otto put the Highlanders ahead by a substantial margin. By the end of the first quarter, the Highlanders had a 16-4 lead over the Beach.
In the second quarter, the Beach increased their intensity both offensively and defensively. They kept the scoring pace even with the Highlanders as both teams traded buckets back-and-forth. The Beach implemented a full-court press scheme and the Highlanders were unable to keep control of the basketball as they committed seven turnovers in the quarter. While Long Beach was evenly matched with UCR early on, the Highlanders still maintained an edge going into halftime with a 30-19 lead.
The third and fourth quarters saw the momentum start to shift toward the Beach. Led by Long Beach sophomore guard Justina King, the Beach started to catch fire as they went on an 18-7 run near the end of the third quarter. They kept the defensive pressure on the Highlanders as they utilized the full-court press once again.
With a little over one minute remaining in the game and the score tied at 55 a piece, the Highlanders gave the ball away on back-to-back possessions. A foul with 40 seconds on the clock by sophomore forward Lauryn Pointer put King at the free throw line. King knocked down both attempts as the Beach took a two-point lead. With seven seconds remaining, Otto had possession of the ball and attempted a mid-range jumper near the baseline. The shot was off to the right of the rim but senior forward Marina Ewodo grabbed the offensive rebound and quickly put the ball into the basket while being fouled. Ewodo knocked down the ensuing free throw and the Highlanders took the lead 58-57. King attempted a final shot for Long Beach before the buzzer expired but her attempt was off the mark. The Highlanders escaped with a one-point victory.
Otto led the charge for the Highlanders, as she finished the game with 18 points and eight rebounds. Ewodo added nine points, nine rebounds and six assists including the game-winning basket for the Highlanders. Senior forward Skyler Lewis contributed 13 points and eight rebounds.
Up next, the Highlanders will battle Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (6-16, 3-8) on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 5:00 p.m. at the SRC Arena in Riverside.