Photo Courtesy of UCSD Athletics
The UC San Diego women’s basketball team celebrated their Senior Night by extending their ten-game winning streak against their California Collegiate Athletic Association rival the California State University, Los Angeles Golden Eagles, taking the visitors down 82–72 in a game that was much closer than the final box score on Saturday, Feb. 15.
Senior guards Stephanie Moore and Sydney Sharp were honored for their four years at UCSD before the game. The team’s coaching staff presented the two soon-to-be graduates and their families with framed jerseys as the crowd gave them a rousing ovation.
“It was surreal having my family here,” Moore said after the game. “They live pretty far away so it was definitely special [for them to be here].”
But despite the early energy, CSULA got up to an early lead, closing out the first quarter up 24–20. The Golden Eagles defense played tight man defense inside the arc, but played loose on the perimeter, allowing the Tritons to shoot from the three-point line. UCSD was not able to capitalize though, going 4–10 from outside the arc early on. On the other side, Golden Eagles’ offense played very aggressively, pushing the ball into the paint, rarely attempting threes.
In the second quarter, the Tritons started to turn the game around. The key to their comeback was the team’s leading scorer: sophomore guard Julia Macabuhay. Midway through the second quarter, Macabuhay scored the Tritons first points of the second quarter on a four-point play, hitting the three-pointer, taking a foul, and making the free throw. She followed that up with two more jumpers, taking UCSD into halftime with a 39–34 lead.
By the second half, Macabuhay was unstoppable inside the key, driving up the left and right seams to attack the rim. The team’s top scorer was aided by fellow sophomore guards Sydney Brown and Brianna Claros. After reclaiming the lead in the second quarter, the Tritons would never give it up. A late-game layup by Macabuhay would bring UCSD’s lead up to 75–70, just enough to put the game away.
Macabuhay had a phenomenal night. She led the team with 30 points, including two three-pointers, to go along with 6 rebounds, and 2 steals in the win.
Despite it not technically being the team’s final home game of the season — the Tritons will host at least one playoff game at RIMAC Arena — the significance of their Senior Day still played a role.
“It was definitely different in the locker room … more emotional than normal,” Sharp said.
As their tenure playing for UCSD comes to a close, both seniors wanted to take advantage of their last games as Tritons. Moore was a bit nostalgic as she thought about the end of her playing career. “In the games, even leading up to this, we’re playing that last time at Chico, the last time at Humboldt … It’s do or die.”
Sharp echoed that sentiment saying, “[We are not taking] any game for granted. We are coming down to the end of it so it’s about playing your hardest every game and giving it all you got.”
Both seniors did seem to give their all in this game. Sharp had 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Moore, though she fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, also had a good night, especially on defense, racking up 7 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals.
When asked about their favorite memories at RIMAC, both responded with the same thing: half-court shots before games. While Moore has made a couple so far, Sharp admitted she has yet to make a half-court shot since her sophomore year. But, luckily for Sharp, the Tritons have a few more games left in the regular season and possibly more depending on how deep they get into the playoffs.
Next week, the Tritons head off to Northern California to play California State University, East Bay on Thursday, Feb. 20 and California State University, Monterey on Saturday, Feb. 22. UCSD holds onto the top rank in the conference and if they win out next week, they will put themselves into prime position to contend for the No. 1 seed in the CCAA tournament. However, the Tritons have to play their best ball coming down the stretch because No. 2 ranked California State University, San Marcos is only one loss behind them. Tipoff against CSUEB and CSUMB are at 5:30 p.m. and 1:00 p.m., respectively.