Friday night was Spirit Night for a Triton team that was taking on the undefeated Cal State Dominguez Hills. Despite the support of an unprecedented amount of fans, the Toros defeated the Tritons 89–82 in a highly offensive game. No. 21 UCSD bounced back the day after to take a 73–64 victory over Cal State L.A. The Tritons now stand at 10–2 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association and 15–3 overall.
UCSD vs CSUDH
UCSD found themselves in a hole early in the game when Cal State Dominguez Hill came out of the gates shooting lights out and took a quick 9–0 lead, forcing a Tritons timeout. Senior guard Monay Lee from Dominguez Hills made it 12–0 before senior forward Farrah Shokoor finally broke through for the Tritons with her first bucket of the night;. J junior guard Beth Mounier with her first three-pointer of the night and sophomore forward Gigi Olelewe brought the score back to 14–9. Lee continued to exploit her matchup with Shokoor to score another layup, but the Tritons fought back with sophomore guard Taylor Tanita leading the charge to cut the deficit to four with two minutes left in the first quarter. However, Dominguez Hills continued to push and concluded a very offensive first quarter with a 26–18 advantage.
Despite suffering on the defensive board, UCSD tied the score up at 26–26 after a beautiful fadeaway jumper from senior guard Jamie Katuna, a three-point play opportunity converted by Tanita and junior guard Haley Anderson’s first three-pointer. The Tritons even took a two-point advantage after Tanita spin-moved into the paint and scored the difficult layup. Lee continued to cause the Tritons trouble, relentlessly attacking the paint and reaching double-figure scoring with five minutes left in the second quarter. Tanita answered immediately, pushing her total to 13 on the following possession. Dominguez Hills took a 39–38 advantage with two minutes left before freshman guard Joleen Yang put in her first three-pointer of the night. A big block from Olelewe with 27 seconds left ensured the Tritons would have the final possession of the half, which Katuna used to score two more points. Senior guard Kielyn Wilson from Dominguez Hills took the ball out with 3 seconds left to nail an impressive half-court buzzer beater to bring her team back within one, 43–42 at halftime.
After 2:30 in the second half, Dominguez Hills tied things up at 48 all. On another three-pointer from Mounier, UCSD opened up a two point lead, 53–51. After a 7–0 run by the Toros, that also saw Mounier twist her ankle and exit the game, sophomore guard Paige Song had one of the plays of the night when she hustled back to block a layup attempt in transition. However, Dominguez Hills continued to push and increased their lead to seven with two minutes left to play in the quarter. Shokoor picked up her fourth foul with 1:16 to play in the third quarter and had to sit on the bench. UCSD continued to suffer on the boards without her and the extra opportunities allowed Dominguez Hills to take a seven-point advantage into the fourth quarter.
Dominguez Hills opened up a 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter after a four-point play by senior guard Breanne Garcia. Behind Tanita the Tritons rallied back, cutting the deficit to six with six minutes to play. The Toros and Tritons went back and forth for a few minutes and the deficit stood at seven with four minutes to go. Down 65–72, the Tritons continued to suffer against Lee who had her 21st and 22nd points of the night on a sizzling dribble that cut through a double- team for the layup. With two minutes left, UCSD started to foul the Dominguez Hills players, hoping for errors on the free-throw line and cut the deficit to six once again with 1:25 left to play in the game. Garcia made both her free-throws to bring the score up to 80–72 with a mere minute to play. On the quick inbound play, Mounier made an improbable banked three-point shot to bring the game back within reach, down five. However, the Toros continued to make their free-throws and despite yet another improbable three-point shot by Katuna, Dominguez Hills brought home the 89–82 win.
“A lot of points scored and a lot of offense,” UCSD Head Coach Heidi VanDerveer told the athletics department. “I just wish our defense would have been a little better. We lost our focus defensively and they came out very aggressively. They got us on our heels. I’m glad we responded. We were very aggressive offensively and had a good rhythm. Down the stretch we couldn’t get the stops that we needed.”
For the Tritons, Katuna, Tanita and Mounier all had double-digits points, with 18, 21 and 17 respectively. Shokoor got close to a double-double, with 9 points and 8 rebounds. This effort was not enough; however, and the Tritons suffered in defense, allowing four Toros players to score over 12 points, with Monay and junior guard Imari Brown combining to put up 47. UCSD also suffered on the boards at a deficit of 39–47, with both Wilson and Monay recording double-doubles.
UCSD vs CSULA
On Saturday night, UCSD got back to its winning ways by taking care of CSULA. All five Tritons starters scored in double-figures. Katuna and Shokoor both had 16 points. Shokoor also grabbed nine rebounds and Anderson had a double-double, grabbing 10 boards and putting up 10 points, just like Tanita and Mounier.
The Tritons did not trail in the game until the third quarter, going up by as high as nine. However, the Golden Eagles fought back and took a 51–42 advantage going into the fourth quarter. CSULA pushed the lead to as much as 12 in the early fourth quarter, but the Tritons were not about to see the preceding night’s scenario repeat itself. The Tritons then went on a devastating 14–0 run to take the lead and would not relinquish it, making all 10 free-throws and holding strong on defense in the final minute to take it by nine.
“Coming into this we wanted to get that win,” Anderson told the athletics department. “As the season goes on they are going to key in and scout Jamie [Katuna] and Farrah [Shokoor] just because they are such big threats so it’s important to have more offensive weapons like Beth [Mounier’s] shooting or Tiny [Tanita] getting into the paint.”
UCSD will now go back on the road to take on Humboldt State on Jan. 28 and Cal Poly Pomona on Jan. 30.