By: Kevin Contreras, Sports Editor

An intense showdown between UCR and UC Santa Barbara erupted at the SRC arena on Saturday night, Jan. 22. Despite an early lead in the first quarter, the Highlanders found themselves in a push and pull with the Gauchos. Fortunately, the Highlander’s defense allowed for an impressive victory at the end as they won by 13 points, 55-42.

Courtesy of UCR Athletics

UCR quickly went on the offensive, with a jumper off of a fast break from senior guard Keilani Cooper to start a 6-0 run for the highlanders. The Gauchos managed to sink another shot before Cooper furthered the lead to 8-2. UCSB then managed to collect some points by going on a 7-0 run, putting them in the lead 9-8 with less than a minute remaining. Junior guard Jada Holland managed to sink a solid 3-point shot, allowing UCR to close the first quarter ahead, 11-9. 

The Gauchos returned in the second quarter eager to make a point, embarking on an 8-0 run which gave them the lead once again. UCR responded by going on a 6-0 run which tied the game at 17, with over 5 minutes left in the second quarter.  UCSB was not ready to give up, going on another brief 6-2 run. This put the Highlanders behind again 22-19 with just over 2 minutes left in the quarter. The Highlanders managed to find two free throws, made good by Cooper, and an extra jumper from redshirt sophomore forward Matehya Bryant from inside the paint was enough to close out the quarter ahead, 23-22. 

Going into the second half, the Highlanders were intent on holding on to their lead. UCR opened up the third quarter with an impressive 7-0 run in the first 4 minutes. The Gauchos, in return, piloted a 6-0 run of their own putting them just within reach of the Highlanders, 28-30, with just under 4 minutes left in the quarter. Anna Blount came in with a layup to extend the lead. UCSB was then awarded a free throw, which they cleared. Sophomore guard Jordan Webster then sank a solid 3-pointer, which prompted redshirt senior guard Olivia West to sink a 3-pointer of her own shortly after. The Highlanders concluded the third quarter with a comfortable lead of 38-29. 

As the game headed into the final 10 minutes, the Highlanders yearned to hold on to their lead and collect a victory. UCR opened up the scoreboard with a layup from Holland, to which the Gauchos responded with a 4-0 run. UCR, seemingly unfazed, constructed a 7-0 run evoked by a 3-pointer from West. This further cemented the Highlander lead, 47-33, with 4:08 left in the game. UCSB then went on a 5-2 run to try and bridge the gap, 38-49. Much to their dismay, UCR assembled a 6-point run, only allowing for the Gauchos to score twice in between. At the end of the game, the Highlander sealed the deal with a 55-42 victory. 

Holland really showcased her ability this game, gathering a total of 37 minutes played. She scored 13 points and eight rebounds. Leading in points was Cooper, and leading in rebounds was senior forward Daphne Gnago. Overall, this was a solid performance from the Highlanders as they prepare for a week away from home. 

Their next matchups are against Long Beach State on Thurs, Jan. 27 and afterwards against Cal State Fullerton on Saturday, Jan. 29.