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After slipping three spots to No. 10 in the Division-II national rankings, the UCSD women’s basketball team came up with two huge wins last week at RIMAC Arena.

The Tritons defeated Cal Poly Pomona on Thursday, Jan. 28 by a score of 71-69 after a clutch final-minute shot. The following Saturday, an excellent Triton defense dominated Cal State San Bernardino for a 58-41 win on UCSD’s annual Spirit Night.

The women went down to the wire with Pomona, requiring late-game heroics from sophomore guard Chelsea Carlisle. Carlisle scored 22 points on eight-of-16 shooting, and had four assists and three steals — all team highs. Junior Tiffany Hunter added 17 points and eight rebounds to the Triton effort.

The Broncos came out fast, trying to push the tempo of the game, jumping to a 22-14 lead midway through the first half. However, the Tritons rallied to keep the game tight: Neither team was able to take more than an eight-point advantage.

Going into halftime, UCSD took a narrow 36-35 lead, after a pull-up jumper from senior guard Annette Ilg closed out the first half.

Pomona rushed head first into the second half, successfully feeding the ball into the low post to go on a quick 8-2 run. The Broncos were physically dominant — 40 points in the paint with a plus-11 rebounding margin — and extended their lead to as much as 11 with 9:07 on the clock.

Daniel Caddell/Guardian

But the Tritons rallied once again, thanks mostly to Carlisle and Hunter, who scored 18 of the final 22 points. With 25 seconds remaining and the Tritons trailing 69-68, Carlisle drained a clutch shot from well behind the three-point line to give UCSD the lead. The Tritons stopped Pomona on the final possession and hung on for the win.

“When we got down by 11, they began talking about getting stops and just kept fighting,” head coach Charity Elliot said. “That was one of the craziest endings I’ve ever been a part of, and showed again how much fight this team has.”

In Saturday’s Spirit Night game, the Tritons played tremendous defense to shut down San Bernardino, winning 58-41 to a record women’s-basketball crowd of 2,020. UCSD was dominant from the start, and never conceded the lead after the first three minutes.

Erik Jepsen/Guardian

Game standout Tiffany Hunter scored a career-high 23 points and added 13 rebounds to complete the double-double.

Aggressive defense on both sides characterized the first half, and the Coyotes held the Tritons to a low 27 points. However, up to the challenge, UCSD allowed San Bernardino only 23 first-half points, and took a four-point lead into the break.

The Tritons kept up the defensive intensity in the second half, keeping the Coyotes to 23 percent from the field.

“Even though we held them to 23 points in the first half, I wasn’t very pleased with our defensive intensity,” said Elliot. “At halftime, I really challenged them to raise the level on the defensive end, and I thought the second half was some of the best team defense we’ve played.”

The Tritons also out-rebounded San Bernardino 46-30, thanks to Hunter’s 13 — and eight more by freshman guard Emily Osga.

UCSD was given an extra boost by the return of junior center Charity Smith, who played in her first game since Jan. 3. She contributed seven points and grabbed three rebounds in nine minutes on the court.

The Tritons were also energized by the roar of the crowd, much larger than usual due to the Spirit Night draw.

“I think that the energy from my team and the crowd led the team and I to have such a great performance,” said Hunter. “We fed off of the crowd, and it kept the game at a very intensified level.”

The wins brought UCSD to 17-1 overall and 12-1 in conference play. The Tritons will shoot for another home victory at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, when they play Cal State Dominguez Hills at RIMAC arena.

Readers can contact Liam Rose at [email protected].

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