Women’s basketball sees progress despite rough end to their season

This year, the UC Riverside women’s basketball team saw a season in which they underachieved as a team in the win column. Despite the team lows, they still had a slew of admirable individual achievements. The Highlanders fought hard throughout the season but ended with a 8-22 overall record. The team saw a decrease in total wins for the 2019-20 season in comparison to last season’s 17 and the 2017-18 season’s 10 total wins. In the Big West Conference, UCR finished 4-12, placing ninth overall and were unable to qualify for the Big West Tournament. Despite the rocky season, the team will be able to use their losses as a learning experience as the majority of current players are returning next year. 

The Highlanders kicked off Big West Conference competition this year on Jan. 9 with a 75-70 win against UC Davis. The team opened the new season with four players scoring in double digits, led by senior guard Jannon Otto with 26 points and nine total rebounds. Here, they recorded a season-low 10 turnovers and converted a season-high of 17 made free-throws out of 20 attempts. While the team was unable to continue this momentum into the rest of the Big West Conference season, the Highlanders still saw improvements in some areas. The team progressed in rebounding with an average of 40.6 rebounds per game in comparison to last season’s 36.2.

Even though the team struggled to win games as a whole, certain players on the team were able to achieve their own personal records. Otto made her mark this season as the Highlanders’ leader in points scored per game with an average of 16.1 points and officially reached 1,000 career points, becoming the 19th player in UCR women’s basketball history to do so. Alongside Otto, junior guard Keilani Cooper and senior forward Marina Ewodo were second and third on the team in scoring with 11 points per game and 10.9 points per game respectively. To end the season on a high note, Otto earned her second straight Big West’s Women’s Basketball All-Conference First Team honor and was the lone player this year to repeat as a first team honoree.

The players were able to make strides off the court as well with Otto being one of two Highlanders named Scholar-Athletes of the Year for UC Riverside. Otto, sophomore forward Daphne Gnago and senior forward Skyler Lewis were selected for the Commissioner’s Honor Roll, with Otto receiving the highest honors possible. 

This year marks the final season for seniors Otto, Ewodo, Lewis and Jalyn Clay who will be leaving the Highlander family due to graduation. As the team adjusts to players leaving, UCR will also see a change in coaching staff. On March 30, UCR Athletics announced that Nicole Powell, former head coach at Grand Canyon University, was officially named the head women’s basketball coach for the Highlanders.