Tritons stun crosstown rival SDSU

    Inside a practically empty Cox Arena at San Diego State University Friday night, the UCSD women’s basketball team began its season against the Division I Aztecs in the two teams’ first meeting since a 33-72 Triton loss Nov. 28, 1978.

    Dave Ries
    Guardian

    However, this year’s Tritons refused to let history repeat itself when they stunned SDSU 63-59. The Aztecs had previously lost only one game to another San Diego university.

    “”[The players] thought I was nuts when I scheduled this game,”” said Triton head coach Judy Malone. “”But that’s what happens when Division I schools play Division II schools: They tend to overlook them.””

    Triton guard Ali Ginn said the team wasn’t nervous to be facing a Division I opponant.

    “”We kind of didn’t know what to expect [from SDSU],”” she said. “”We really weren’t intimidated.””

    The Tritons didn’t look intimidated when they started off the game aggressively despite the experience advantage of SDSU, which already had two games under its belt this season and was playing with four returning starters.

    SDSU began the game with a definite game plan, going inside and trying to take advantage of its 6-4 center Morgan Vargas and two 6-0 starting forwards.

    However, the scrappy Triton defense, led by point guard Maya Fok and forward Danyiel Wortham, effectively contained the SDSU offense inside the key and created 14 first-half turnovers for SDSU with its energetic, hard-nosed play.

    The two teams went back and forth for most of the first half, with the Tritons taking a 14-12 lead with 12:30 left in the half. UCSD then fell behind after an SDSU three-pointer gave the Aztecs a 17-16 advantage, which they would later extend to a 26-20 lead with less than three minutes left in the half.

    The Tritons battled back, helped by a Ginn three-pointer and a bucket at the end of the first half by freshman center Margaret Johnson — who finished her UCSD debut with 15 points and 7 rebounds — and UCSD finished the half down 26-29.

    Despite hitting only 25 percent of first-half free-throw attempts and turning the ball over 18 times, Malone was satisfied with her team’s performance.

    “”I thought if we kept it close, we’d be OK,”” she said.

    SDSU head coach Barb Smith had a different outlook on her team’s first half.

    “”Our starters didn’t come ready to play; I think we took this team for granted,”” she said. “”The starters in the first half didn’t do what they were supposed to do.””

    SDSU started the second half with a revamped lineup, but was still ineffective as UCSD began the half with a steal and scored the first three points to take a 30-29 lead.

    “”We wanted to make sure to bring the same intensity [as in the first half],”” Ginn said.

    After the two teams traded leads, SDSU’s Missy Shomaker — who came off the bench for the Aztecs and finished tied for the team-high with 13 points — knotted the game at 35 apiece with a fast-break layup. She then traded baskets with UCSD’s Nicholle Bromley; when Bromley hit a three to put the Tritons up 38-35, Schomaker answered with a three-pointer to tie, then Bromley drove to the hoop for another field goal and Schomaker answered on the other end of the court with a jumper to tie the game at 40.

    After the two teams battled back and forth for several minutes, Bromley again ignited the Tritons with a basket to give UCSD the lead, 54-52. UCSD didn’t relinquish that lead for the rest of the game, despite a last-ditch attempt by the Aztecs to come back from a 59-52 deficit, which was helped by UCSD’s persistent free-throw shooting struggles. The Tritons finished 12 for 27 from the line.

    However, after Aztec Claire Swinbank scored to draw SDSU to within one at 59-60, Fok grabbed a key rebound with 33.6 seconds left and was fouled by SDSU. After making one of two free throws, Fok then stole the inbound pass and was sent to the line again. This time she iced both shots to produce the final point total.

    Malone gave credit for the victory to the Triton offense.

    “”We ran our offense effectively — that was the difference,”” she said.

    But Ginn gave credit to a different source.

    “”I’d like to thank the San Diego Union-Tribune,”” she said. “”They wrote an article saying we would be an easy victory for SDSU, which we posted in our locker room. It was a good motivating factor for us.””

    The Tritons will be looking to continue their winning streak and learn from SDSU’s mistake when they hit the road Tuesday to take on Division III University of Redlands.

    “”[This win] gives us a boost,”” Malone said. “”It answers a lot of questions about playing in our conference.””

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