Season Kicks Off With Thrilling Win

Sophomore guard Chelsea Carlisle helped pace UCSD with 20 points, five assists and five steals in the season-opening 71-70 win over Grand Canyon on Nov. 20. Carlisle and the Tritons will begin conference play versus Cal State San Bernardino on Dec. 4 (Daniel Caddell/Guardian File).
Sophomore guard Chelsea Carlisle helped pace UCSD with 20 points, five assists and five steals in the season-opening 71-70 win over Grand Canyon on Nov. 20. Carlisle and the Tritons will begin conference play versus Cal State San Bernardino on Dec. 4 (Daniel Caddell/Guardian File).

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL — After a challenging preseason that included games against Division-I opponents Stanford University and the University of San Diego, the Tritons opened their 2009-10 regular season with a hard-fought road victory in Phoenix, Ariz.

The UCSD women’s basketball team defeated Grand Canyon University 71-70 at Antelope Gym on Nov. 21. Down by 15 in the first half, the Tritons rallied in the second period to tie the game and trump the defending Pacific West Conference champs by one point to earn UCSD its first win of the season.

“I think our effort and heart contributed most to our success,” junior forward Tiffany Hunter said. “We were down by seven at halftime, and came out in the second half with relentless effort. We had the mindset to get a defensive stop on every play, crash the boards and quickly transition into offense. When we did those three things, we saw results that contributed to our success.”

Senior guard Annette Ilg got things started for the Tritons, nailing a three-pointer right out of the gate. Grand Canyon responded with a 16-6 run 12 minutes into the game and continued to dominate the first half, picking up the largest lead of the game when junior guard Samantha Murphy converted on free throws to stretch Grand Canyon’s advantage 39-24.

UCSD struck back with a three-point play by junior forward Tiffany Hunter and two free throws from Ilg, cutting the Antelope lead to 10 with 2:14 left in the half. Sophomore guard Chelsea Carlisle battled to keep the Tritons within arm’s reach before heading into the locker room, hitting a three-pointer to close out the scoring for the first half.

“I was really pleased with our fight and determination to get the win, especially when we were down by 15,” head coach Charity Elliott said. “We could’ve folded, but instead we decided to dig down and get one stop at a time on the defensive end. Tiffany [Hunter] and Lauren [Freidenberg] did a fantastic job getting rebounds and putbacks, and Chelsea Carlisle did a great job hitting some big shots and directing us on both ends.”

Trailing 48-39 off a jumper by the Antelopes, UCSD started tightening the reins early on in the second half. Sophomore center Lauren Freidenberg notched a layup at the 15:22 mark, igniting the Tritons to an 11-2 run over the next five minutes.

A foul by Grand Canyon center Katie Johnson enabled junior center Charity Smith to sink a pair of free throws for UCSD and tie the game at 50.

“We didn’t make any specific changes [on offense or defense] except tell them that we were getting out-hustled and outworked in the first half,” Elliott said. “I thought we dialed up our intensity, particularly on the defensive end.”

Over the next two minutes, the score ping-ponged back and forth between the teams until five straight points from Carlisle boosted UCSD’s lead to 61-55 at the 6:08 mark. Senior guard Leilani Martin then scored a layup with 4:34 remaining — offering the Tritons their largest advantage of the game at 66-59.

Grand Canyon pulled within two points with 2:31 left, but Friedenberg came up with a crucial offensive rebound, scoring a layup to extend the Triton lead to four. Again, a pair of free throws from Antelope Ashley Hardin made it a two-point game. With 1:57 left on the clock, Ilg drew a foul, hitting one of two free throws to give the Tritons a three-point advantage.

With the game on the line, the Antelopes sunk two free throws, taking the game 71-70 and keeping it a nail-biter until the final seconds.

After a jumper from Carlisle missed its mark, Grand Canyon had one final chance to claim the win — but Antelope forward Stacy Haddow missed her three-point attempt, allowing UCSD to seize a rousing victory in its season opener.

Four players reached double figures on the Triton side. Carlisle led all scorers with 20 points, adding five assists, five steals and three rebounds. Hunter was superb in her first game for UCSD shooting five of eight from the field for 12 points. Ilg tallied 12 and finished with four steals, while Freidenberg contributed 10 points and hauled in seven boards.

“We have depth and players from all realms,” senior forward Erin Noonan said. “We have girls that are amazing shooters, girls who hustle after every ball, girls who are great rebounders and girls that have amazing defense.”

The Tritons now look to their first CCAA matchup against Cal State San Bernardino on Dec. 4 at Coussoulis Arena. The Coyotes were the only team to defeat UCSD in conference play last season, taking a 62-57 victory on March 3.

“This is a huge weekend coming up,” Elliott said. “Not only is San Bernardino our second game, but it’s also our conference opener — so certainly, it takes on a whole other level of importance. I know we’ve used these last 10 days to sharpen up on some things that we didn’t do real well. We’re looking to come out from the beginning with a tremendous sense of urgency.”

Readers can contact Brianna Lee at [email protected].

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