Women’s basketball fails to close, suffers back-to-back losses

The UC Riverside women’s basketball team (8-20, 5-9) had significant leads against both Cal State Fullerton (8-19, 3-11) and UC Santa Barbara (12-15, 9-6) but couldn’t quite finish the job.

Against the CSUF Titans, the Highlanders led 40-29 at the end of the first half, only to fall apart in the third quarter en route to a 71-62 loss. The Highlanders shot only 20 percent (4 of 20) from the field during the third quarter, being outscored 26-8 in the period.

Senior guard Michelle Curry bounced back from a rough shooting night last Thursday, Feb. 15, finishing with 22 points on the night. She also tied a conference season-high of six assists. Sophomore Marina Ewodo flirted with a double-double, scoring a career-high 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting. She rounded out the stat sheet with eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

Despite the loss, senior guard Lauren Holt manage to extend her double-digit scoring streak to 20 games, finishing with 10 points. Fellow senior Inara Nyingifa had her best game of the season thus far, putting up all season-highs with eight points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in 26 minutes of play.

In their second game of the week, the Highlanders lost to UCSB in a 72-70 thriller, despite a monstrous 31 point, four assist and career-high 14 rebound performance from Curry.

Leading only by one after the first quarter, Riverside used a strong second quarter to lead by as many as 11 points on multiple occasions. The Gauchos would stay within striking distance throughout, in large part to the inside-outside combo of Drew Edelman (27 points, 11-14 FG) and Tal Sahar (21 points, 4 of 7 from three-point land).

It seemed as if the Highlanders were icing the game, after a pair of Curry free throws gave them a 66-59 advantage with just 1:23 remaining.

However, back-to-back clutch treys from Sahar would cut the UCR lead to three with 37 seconds left. Sahar intentionally fouled Holt right after, as Holt went 1 for 2 at the line. Skyler Lewis would then foul Sahar on a three-point attempt and all three free throws were made. A missed free throw by Nyingifa led to a Drew Edelman layup to tie the game at 70 apiece.

Curry’s potential game-winning baseline jumper with two seconds left just missed, but a Gaucho turnover gave the Highlanders one more chance to win the game. With 1.4 seconds remaining on the clock, UCR ended up turning the ball back over on the inbound play with no time being shaved off the clock.

UCSB was set to inbound the ball, but a Highlander foul set up a pair of game-winning free throws for the Gauchos with half a second left. Sarah Bates knocked down both, capping off a miraculous 11-4 UCSB run in the final 75 seconds.

Holt went 10 for 12 to finish the night with 21 points, marking the 21st consecutive game that she’s reached double figures in points and her third time reaching 20 points or more in the last four. Holt also had five assists to round out her stat line.

The Highlanders will play their last road game of the regular season against Long Beach State on Thursday, March 1 before heading back home for Senior Night against UC Davis on Saturday, March 3.

UCR has clinched a spot in the upcoming Big West Conference tournament, beginning Tuesday, March 6. The team currently sits at the sixth spot in the conference, with a chance to move up or down one spot depending on how Hawai’i and CSU Northridge’s final two games play out.

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