The UC Riverside women’s basketball team entered Saturday’s exhibition match against crosstown opponent California Baptist University hoping to get a rolling start to their 2012 season. The Highlanders have won their last seven against the Lancers, including a 75-43 thumping the last time the two teams met in 2001.
The first half saw both squads trade blows until the Highlanders pulled away midway through the first half with a 15-0 run led by guard Dynese Adams, who scored six straight points for the Highlanders en route to a 26-14 lead. The Lancers however were able to cut the lead to 31-24 by halftime thanks in part to a three-pointer by Brittney Lewis in the waning seconds of the first half.
Cal Baptist opened up the second half with a Jasmine Beverly jump shot to further cut into the Highlander lead. Tre’shonti Nottingham then halted the Lancers’ advance with a layup that turned into a three-point play thanks to a foul by Lesley Vodicska. Highlander Jasmine Beverly had a chance to answer with a three-point opportunity of her own, but failed to convert on the and-one.
Much of the second half was a game of cat-and mouse between the two sides, with the Lancers cutting the Highlander lead to three and then two points in the second half. The most significant of these rallies occurred in the final minutes of regulation with the Highlanders leading 57-50
Down seven with 2:15 to play in the second half, Lancer Lesley Vodicska hit a jumper to cut the lead to 57-52. Tre’shonti Nottingham subsequently misfired on a three-point attempt, setting the Lancers up with an opportunity to pull within one possession of the Highlanders. They did just that. A Natasha Hadley foul allowed Myriah Hicks to convert both of her attempts from the charity stripe, making the score 57-54 with a minute to play in regulation.
Tre’shonti Nottingham took the ensuing Highlander possession in search of her killer instinct, knowing that a score would in all likelihood ice the game for the Highlanders. Her search would find no answers, as she missed yet another jumper, giving the Lancers an opportunity to tie the game with a three-pointer. Highlander forward Jamila Williams would then foul Brittney Lewis, who fatally missed both of her free throws.
Lewis’ fatal misses left the Lancers desperate, as they fouled Tre’shonti Nottingham, sending her to the line. Nottingham stepped up to the charity stripe and found her misplaced killer instinct, nailing both attempts to seal the 59-54 Highlander victory.
Head coach John Margaritis called the game “a first step, an opportunity for us to see the floor, win or lose.” Margaritis’ hopes for the players to “improve every day, and from game to game” and expects the fans to “help us fill this place (SRC Arena), especially the students.”
Asked about the Big West media poll picking the Highlanders to finish eighth in the conference, Coach Margaritis boldly stated, “That’s why you play the games. If the media was [at] our practices every day and picked us to finish eighth, I’d be worried.”