Highlanders show pristine form in exhibition opener

Inara Nyingifa (No. 44) weaves her way through the Cal Poly defense. Bri Chew/HIGHLANDER
Inara Nyingifa (No. 44) weaves her way through the Cal Poly defense. Bri Chew/HIGHLANDER

The UC Riverside women’s basketball team debuted the season in great form, crushing Cal Poly Pomona 86-51. Senior guard Brittany Crain — who was 11th in the nation in scoring last year averaging 21.7 points per game — continued to display elite shooting ability and showing that she is poised for another recognition-worthy year. The exhibition was also a chance for the Highlanders to adjust to the new four 10-minute quarter structure that the NCAA is introducing for Division I women’s basketball this season.

Also continuing where they left off were senior guard Annelise Ito and sophomore guard Michelle Curry, who each scored 10 points. The pair dominated Cal Poly on the inside, converting layup after layup and guiding the Highlanders to a 45 percent mark from the field.

The Highlanders scored 18 second chance points and limited Cal Poly Pomona to just two. The team put the foot on the throttle from the very beginning, shooting right out of the gate to a 14-1 run after the Highlanders received a technical foul due to a uniform issue. It was a very refreshing day for junior forward Rejane Verin, who led the Highlanders with 15 points on six for 12 shooting in one of her first games as a Highlander. Verin sat out all of last season after transferring from UNLV due to NCAA transfer rules.

Not only were multiple players supporting each other on offense, the team defense was suffocating, completely shutting the door for stretches. Cal Poly was only able to manage eight points in the second quarter that, when compared with UCR’s 23, proved to be a huge swing that blew the game wide open.

Forward Clemence Lefebvre — a sophomore from Rouen, France — started and scored 9 points for the Highlanders in a game where UCR never trailed. A mix of strong, aggressive defense with well executed motion offense made the Highlanders — a team projected to finish second in the Big West this year based on the coaches’ preseason poll — look up to the task of beating teams on their schedule aho are in contention for the top 25 in all of Division I, such as UCLA, Cal and Oregon State. The Highlanders play one more exhibition on Saturday, November 7 before opening their season at the SRC against Fresno State on Friday, November 13.

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