On Jan. 8, the UCR Highlanders women’s basketball team played their first game against the UC Irvine (UCI) Anteaters in the Big West Conference. UCR has endured multiple game cancellations as a result of COVID-19 related reasons. UCR’s series against the University of Hawaii was cancelled after a COVID-19 test came back positive on the Rainbow Wahine.
In a display of power, the UCR Highlanders triumphed over UCI with a 63-45 win. This secured the first win for UCR’s women’s basketball team against a Big West Conference opponent. The starting lineup for the game included freshman Jordan Webster, sophomore Jada Holland, senior Keilanei Cooper, freshman Kari Kyrkjebo and junior Daphne Gnago.
The Highlanders got off to a strong start and led 16-6 by the end of the first quarter, setting the stage for the remainder of the game. Webster secured the first points of the game, including a stunning 3-point shot.
The Highlanders kept up their impressive lead against UCI into the second quarter. UCR’s impressive defense suppressed UCI from overcoming the Highlander’s lead. With five minutes left in the second quarter, Cooper earned her fourth rebound of the night. By the end of the second quarter and at the start of half-time, the UCR Highlanders led with a notable 33-15 lead.
Starting off the third quarter strong, Holland scored an impressive long 2, bringing The Highlander’s lead to 35-17. With seven minutes left in the third quarter, Webster shot a 3-pointer, giving the Highlanders a 20 point lead over the Anteaters, bringing the score to 40-20. Webster went for the steal with five minutes left on the clock of the third quarter, charging her way down the court and banking a layup. Cooper gained the last point of the quarter, bringing her to 11 points scored and five rebounds. By the end of the third quarter, the UCR Highlanders extended their lead 49-25, an impressive lead of 24 points.
The Highlanders continued to impress in the fourth quarter, but the Anteaters fought hard to close the margin in the final quarter. Not only did the Highlanders never lose their lead throughout the entirety of the game, the Anteaters only outscored the Highlanders in the fourth quarter, scoring 20 points to UCR’s 14. Scoring a 3-pointer, Cooper helped further solidify the Highlanders lead as well as their inevitable win, bringing the score to 56-41 with only two minutes and 30 seconds left in the quarter. By the end of the fourth quarter, despite their right in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t enough for the Anteaters to overcome UCR.
The Highlanders ultimately secured their win 63-45. They scored 41% with 14 or more points every quarter while the Anteaters shot 31%. The win for the Highlanders was even more rewarding as the Anteaters scored on average 5 1/2 3-pointers per game while they only scored one 3-pointer despite 10 attempts.
The Highlanders went on to play UCI in their second game on Jan. 9 but ultimately lost 60-62.