The SRC Arena in Riverside was the site of UC Riverside’s (8-18, 4-8) second season clash against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (SLO). Their previous meeting favored Cal Poly SLO (7-20, 4-9) as they earned a victory at home, 75-70. In a game where the Highlanders were seemingly in control, a late Mustang comeback changed the final outcome.
In this revenge inspired match on Thursday, Feb. 21, sophomore forward Daphne Gnago flipped a switch to set her team-high points tally. Gnago scored 14 of her total 15 points in the second half along with two assists. Gnago also demonstrated defensive poise with six rebounds and two steals that contributed pivotal points on the scoreboard.
The first half saw the Highlanders’ offense fight point-for-point. At the half of the game, the Highlanders were down just one at 31-30. The narrative changed once the teams reemerged from the locker room.
Although UCR was able to tactically create shooting opportunities, they were not able to convert from the floor. In total, the Highlanders shot 4-of-13 from the field, and 0-for-3 from beyond the arc to uncharacteristically shoot a dismal 30%.
The Mustangs displayed a polar opposite side of offense. Shooting 7-of-14 from the floor and capitalizing on a pair of free-throws that proved crucial, Cal Poly outscored UC Riverside by six to gain a 47-40 lead heading into the final quarter.
A late fourth quarter spark nearly inspired a comeback. The Highlanders outscored their opponents 8-2, cutting the deficit to six in the final minutes of the match. With 2:31 left on the clock, UCR missed a pair of shot attempts in tandem with a paramount turnover. Cal Poly SLO was able to put up another four points, sealing their victory in the end 62-52.
Along with Gnago, senior guard Jannon Otto also posted up double digits with 11 points. Senior forward Marina Ewodo contributed eight points, four assists and seven rebounds in the paint.
In an interview with The Highlander, Seyram Bell, the head coach of the women’s basketball team elaborated on Ewodo’s role as a person foremost and player from Pau, France. “I’m big on bringing people that fit in as athletes and people. You can be an exceptionally good player but if you’re not a good person, it doesn’t mesh well with the vibe that we have here,” stated Bell.
The Highlanders return home on Thursday, Feb. 27 as they take on the Cal State Fullerton Titans (14-10, 6-5). The Highlanders have won two of their last three meetings with the Titans. In their most recent meeting on Feb. 8, the Highlanders fell 71-61 to the Titans in their home.