Kevin Contreras, Sports Editor
The UC Riverside women’s basketball team faced off against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos traveling up to the Santa Barbara coast for the away game matchup. With an early lead in the first half, the Highlanders were able to stay in control of the game and secured the win for themselves.
Starting off the game, a layup from junior guard Mele Finau jumpstarted a run for UCR. The Gauchos managed to earn a point in between but a 3-pointer from senior guard Keilani Cooper completed the 7-2 run. The Gauchos went on a six-point run for themselves but another 3-pointer from Jada Holland in between kept UCR in the lead 10-8. With just over 4 minutes left in the first quarter, Jordan Webster managed to sink a free throw and a 3-pointer, extending the Highlander lead. UCSB attempted another run, scoring a 3-pointer and a layup, but the UCR defense kept them at bay, closing out the quarter, 16-13, in favor of UCR.
Going into the second quarter, the Highlanders came in strong with a 10-2 run. During the UCR run, redshirt senior Olivia West and Cooper managed impressive 3-pointers. The Gauchos then shut out the Highlanders for the final 3 minutes of the quarter, and a 3-pointer from junior point guard Johnni Gonzalez prompted UCSB to go on an 11-6 run. Despite their efforts, UCR remained in the lead at the end of the half, 32-26.
The Highlander’s solid playmaking in the first half foreshadowed what would occur in the final 20 minutes of the game. The Highlanders opened up the scoreboard in the third quarter with a jumper from Cooper. UCSB sank a 3-pointer, courtesy of senior point guard Danae Miller, with a follow up jumper from junior guard Alexis Tucker to put the Gauchos within reach 31-34 with under 8 minutes left in the first half. UCR went on a brief 4-0 run, to keep themselves in the lead, to which the Gauchos replied with a 4-0 run for themselves. With about 2 minutes left in the third quarter, UCR found themselves narrowly in the lead, 40-35. The Highlander’s managed to buckle down on defense and carry their victory over into the fourth quarter while also managing to sneak in a few points, courtesy of a 3-pointer from West and a layup from freshman forward Esther Mataranz. UCR went into the final 10 minutes of the game ahead, 45-35.
In the final quarter of the game, UCR kickstarted the point scoring with a jumper from West. The Gauchos replied with a layup of their own. West then managed a 3-pointer off of a fast break to keep the highlanders in the lead, 50-37. UCSB was then awarded two free throws, which they sank. UCR then went on a quick 4-0 run, to which the gauchos responded with two back-to-back 3-pointers sunk by Miller and senior guard Megan Anderson, 54-35. UCR then went on another little 4-0 run. UCSB, unwilling to give up so quickly, went on a 6-0 run of their own. Unfortunately, despite the impressive playmaking from UCSB in the final minutes of the game, UCR closed out the match with two free throws from Anna Blount. The Highlanders emerged victorious, 60-51.
UCR continued its game winning momentum into Saturday’s matchup with the Cal State Northridge Matadors, winning 72-59. UCR’s women’s basketball team will return to the SRC Arena on Thursday, March 3 for a bout against the CSU Fullerton Titans.