Up In The Air

    Erik Jepsen/Guardian

    March is the most exciting month of the year for college hoops. As if the win-or-go-home formula was not enough, the NCAA’s selection committee found a way to raise the stakes even higher for the Tritons.

    In what might be the most interesting matchup in the field of 64 teams, UCSD women’s basketball is scheduled to play Humboldt State in the first round of the NCAA Division-II Tournament on March 12. This will be the fourth meeting this season between the two teams; most recently, Humboldt pulled off an upset win on March 6, knocking the Tritons out of the California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament.

    Humboldt went on to win the conference tournament, earning an automatic berth in the NCAA tourney. The Tritons earned their bid by virtue of being CCAA regular-season champions, and seemed to be guaranteed the West Region’s No. 1 seed before the loss. Instead, the top spot went to Seattle Pacific University, and the 25-4 Tritons had to settle for the No. 2 seed. Humboldt, with only a 19-10 overall record, was given the No. 7 seed.

    Nevertheless, the Tritons know full well that Humboldt is a dangerous team. UCSD started the season with 14 consecutive wins, a school record start to the season. But when the Tritons traveled to Lumberjack Arena on Jan. 21, Humboldt gave them more than they could handle, breaking the Tritons’ perfect start with an 84-80 victory.

    UCSD then hosted the Lumberjacks on Feb. 26 for the regular-season finale, looking to avenge their early season loss. The game was essentially over by halftime, as the Tritons crushed the Lumberjacks 86-51. Only a week later, on March 5, the Tritons returned to Lumberjack Arena and were once again stunned by Humboldt, losing 82-78 as the Lumberjacks advanced to the tournament final.

    The Tritons will have to step up their defense to have a chance against the Lumberjacks, who are the best three-point-shooting team in the conference. Humboldt made 11 three-pointers in the team’s last meeting, including eight in the second half.

    “Humboldt is playing extremely well right now, and we are going to have to do a better job defending,” head coach Charity Elliott said. “It’s tournament time, which means everyone is playing a with a greater sense of urgency.”

    The Tritons will also need to cool the hot hand of Andrea Bobic, a second-team all-CCAA player that led the conference in three-pointers, not to mention shot 42 percent from beyond the arc.

    The first three rounds of the tournament will be played on a neutral court at Seattle Pacific University. If the Tritons can get past Humboldt State, they will face the winner of the Western Washington University and Chico State matchup the following night.

    “We are very excited to be playing in the NCAA tournament,” Elliott said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s time to put it all together and see what happens.”

    Readers can contact Liam Rose at [email protected].

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