Last Friday, Feb. 22, the Tritons’ nine-game winning streak was snapped by Cal State East Bay. Despite the loss, UCSD regrouped to take a 56–44 win over Cal State Monterey Bay the following day to secure its spot in the CCAA Championships.
The Tritons are currently tied with No. 1 Chico State for first place, but going into this weekend, UCSD’s magic number is two. If the Tritons manage to take both of this weekend’s matches — against Sonoma State and San Francisco State — UCSD will clinch the top spot, because in accordance with CCAA regulation, the Tritons would win on the tiebreak since they have defeated the Wildcats twice this season.
Regardless of this weekend’s results, UCSD will host the quarterfinal stage, Tuesday, March 5. “I think the number one thing for our team is to be healthy, and then probably the second thing right behind that is to be hungry,” Head Coach Heidi VanDerveer said to the UCSD Athletics Department.
On Friday, in one of its worst games in recent memory, second-ranked UCSD fell to fourth-ranked Cal State East Bay 44–59. The Pioneers flaunted one of the deepest benches in the conference, with nine of their 10 players who saw time on the court recording at least one point, outscoring the Tritons’ reserves 17–2.
Junior forward Erin Dautremont led the Tritons in the attack, scoring 14 points to compensate for unusually poor shooting from top-scoring seniors Daisy Feder and Emily Osga. Feder still managed to finish with 10 points, but went 3-for-14 from the field, while Osga went 2-for-6 for five points. UCSD shot just 23.1 percent (6–26) in the first half, digging itself into a 10-point deficit by halftime.
“[Cal State East Bay’s] big, and they’re athletic, and I just think that when we’re not aggressive in transition or we’re not sharp in the half court, we end up shooting poorly, which I think we did — and that ends up translating into the other end of the court, where we get a little passive defensively,” VanDerveer said.
The Pioneers — on a nine-game winning streak — extended their lead into the second half, as junior forward Lauren Lucchesi caught fire, hitting eight of her 12 points within the first seven minutes of the second half and forward Marlene McMillan recording nine of her 14 points in the second period.
“The key for us is to be aggressive on both ends of the floor, and I think they got us out on her heels a little bit,” VanDerveer said.
The following day, UCSD faced perennial powerhouse Cal State Monterey Bay, powered by Osga’s who scored 22 points — almost 40 percent of UCSD’s points overall.
“We need everyone to come out every night,” Osga said to the UCSD Athletics Department. “I mean, if one player comes out, we usually don’t do well, or one or two players even. When everyone comes out and plays together, that’s when we do our best.”
The Tritons trailed to start, but back-to-back three-pointers by Osga and Dautremont gave UCSD the lead with just over 11 minutes left. The match remained close, but UCSD kept the advantage throughout.
Dautremont had another solid game, finishing with a season-high 13 rebounds on top of nine points, while the Tritons got a little more help from the bench on Saturday, as junior sixth man Megan Perry finished with the eight points and four rebounds.
Monterey Bay trimmed the lead down to just one point with five minutes and 50 seconds remaining in the game — the closest of the second half — but back-to-back field goals from Osga brought the lead back to a manageable 45–40.
Going into its last two games of the season, UCSD is one of six teams in the 12-team conference to have a guaranteed space in the conference playoffs. The last two spots will go to Cal State San Bernardino, San Francisco State or Sonoma State.
The Tritons will host Sonoma State this Thursday, Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m. and San Francisco State for senior night the following day.