After losing the last two games to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, the UCR women’s basketball team bounced back with a dominating win against Cal State University, Fullerton (CSUF). A third quarter run from UCR ultimately put the game away, and combined with their suffocating defense, the Highlanders won in convincing fashion.

The Highlanders started the game with a 5-2 lead; however, both teams started slow and sloppy, as both UCR and CSUF committed 3 turnovers apiece. UCR began to play much better as senior Keilanei Cooper scored 5 quick points off the bench to give the Highlanders a 13-8 lead to end the first quarter. The defense for the Highlanders also stepped up to end the quarter, forcing the Titans to commit 7 turnovers in the opening quarter, which led to 9 points of turnovers.

The second quarter was a back-and-forth battle between the Highlanders and Fullerton’s Titans, as both teams traded baskets throughout the quarter. It was the Keilanei Cooper show for the Highlanders in the second quarter, as she scored 9 of the 14 points put up by UCR in the quarter. A 3-pointer and midrange jumper from senior guard Cooper gave the Highlanders a 27-21 lead going into halftime. Cooper carried the Highlander offense with 14 points and 3 rebounds off the bench. The defense also stifled the Titan’s offense to 31% from the field and 17% from 3-point range.

In the third quarter, the Highlanders saw their lead cut to 2, as a layup from the Titan’s Carolyn Gill cut the lead 29-27. This would be the closest Cal State Fullerton would get in the second half, as the Highlanders responded with a roaring 14-2 run, blowing the game up open 43-29. Joy Campbell led the charge with a couple buckets and steals, and Suzan Kinran and Bryanna Brady had contributing buckets that helped the Highlanders on this run. A 3-pointer from Cooper gave the Highlanders a 14-point lead before a 3-pointer from the Titan’s Gabi Vidmar finally stopped the bleeding for CSUF. A beautiful pass by Campbell to Brady for the layup with nine seconds remaining saw the Highlanders up 45-32 to end the third quarter. In the third quarter, the Highlander defense forced 5 turnovers, which led to 7 points off turnovers for UCR.

In the fourth quarter, CSUF ramped up their defensive intensity, forcing UCR to commit 6 turnovers and holding them to 25% from the field. However, it proved to be too late as the Highlanders were able to hold onto the lead. A layup from the Highlanders’ Kari Kyrkjebo put the Highlanders up by 17 points, 53-36, the largest lead of the game that sealed the game away. A pair of made free throws by Campbell at the end of the game gave UCR the win 55-43 over CSUF. “I am really proud of the team tonight … Everyone who was able played for us tonight, which was great to see,” said Head Coach Nicole Powell after the game. “I’m so proud and think things are coming together really well for this team.”

The Highlanders were led by an offensive outburst from Cooper, who finished with 19 points and 3 rebounds. Joy Campbell stuffed the statistics sheet with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. However, it was the defense that gave the Highlanders the dominating win, as the defense held the Titans to an ice cold 31% from the field and 14.3% from 3-point range, as well as forcing 15 turnovers.

The Highlanders improved their record to 6-7 as they take on UC Irvine next Friday, Feb.12 and Saturday, Feb.13 in Irvine.

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