vs. Cal Poly Pomona
Standing atop the rankings at 19–3 overall and 15–1 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association, the UC San Diego Tritons were facing the second best team in the CCAA for Spirit Night. At 15–7 overall and 12–5 in the rankings, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona proved a valiant foe to UCSD, but the Tritons eventually prevailed.
UCSD took the first lead of the game on senior forward Dalayna Sampton’s layup. Although the teams traded baskets throughout the quarter, the beginning of this game proved to be a physical affair where defense shined. Cal Poly Pomona shot just 31 percent from the field, and UCSD didn’t fare much better, shooting only 23 percent from the field. With two minutes left in the quarter, Cal Poly Pomona jumped to an early four-point lead when senior forward Alyssa Benton sank a shot from downtown. Down 12–8, UCSD continued to be aggressive with the ball and earned back-to-back trips to the line on fouls by junior guard Jordyn Shane. Junior guard Joleen Yang and then junior guard Kayla Sato sank their free throws, pulling the Tritons level with the Broncos at the end of the first quarter.
After a tight first quarter, it was Cal Poly Pomona who took the first significant lead of the game, when a three-pointer by sophomore guard Casey McWilliam was followed by an easy finish by senior forward Chelsea Waddy-Blow inside. With UCSD having issues stopping the high-low action and the postu-up presence of the Broncos, the lead grew to eight.
That’s the moment when Yang chose to take over. Yang got a bucket from downtown, had a nice layup on a cut to the basket, and after a good defensive possession, nailed another three to bring the Tritons even. Yang was even able to finish the quarter with a driving floater, giving UCSD a 28–27 lead going into halftime.
Except for Yang, who had 18 points on 6–8 shooting in the half, UCSD’s starters had difficulties getting going, with redshirt sophomore forward Mikayla Williams, Sato, and Sampton combining to shoot three for 13 from the floor.
In the early minutes of the third quarter, UCSD opened up a five-point lead. Junior guard Jackie Ricketson got to double digits, scoring with two quick baskets, and continued to put pressure on the Tritons. UCSD continued to be aggressive on defense and pushed the ball on offense, contrasting the slow and steady rhythm of the Broncos. On a nice entry pass from Sato, Williams started to get going with a nice layup, but McWilliam answered right back on a 15-footer.
Toward the middle of the quarter, Yang appeared to have twisted her ankle, but she was back on the floor in no time. “I like to think that it didn’t [impact my game],” Yang said after the game. “I was hurting a little bit, but it was great to have my teammates step up. The great thing about our team is that if one person isn’t rolling, somebody else is gonna step up, and the whole team carried us to that win.
With the score all tied up at 42-all, a basket by Williams on a nice hussle play and a layup from Sato put the Tritons up 46–43. However, the Broncos responded and, with a long three at the end of the quarter by Ricketson, took the lead 48–46.
Williams sank an 18-footer to tie the game in the first minute of the fourth quarter. It was all Cal Poly Pomona from this point on though, as senior forward Priscilla Brooks got back-to-back buckets after an offensive rebound and a steal. The Broncos were controlling the pace of the game at that point, and after another turnover followed by a Brooks basket, UCSD was forced to take a timeout. Things did not get better after the timeout, as UCSD committed yet another turnover on a moving screen by Williams who was trying to free up Yang for a three. When Ricketson took a trip to the line, the Broncos lead grew to eight with five minutes remaining in the quarter.
“Our coaches do a great job of preparing us for anything. I feel like we just had to stay composed, and we ended up with the win,” Yang said.
Finally, the Tritons answered, setting up a full court press to disrupt Cal Poly Pomona. UCSD scored eight straight points to tie the game, on a layup from a forced turnover, a 15-footer from Sampton, a huge hussle play from Sato, who forced a turnover and assisted Williams for an easy layup, and finally two free throws by Sato. Shane stopped the bleeding with a basket inside, but Sampton and Williams took over. Sampton had a layup following an offensive rebound, and then put the Tritons on top with another put back, followed by Williams getting fouled and sinking both free-throws. This set up what was arguably the play of the game. UCSD on defense, protecting a four-point lead, switched a screen with Williams taking on Ricketson. Ricketson used her speed advantage to get around for the layup, but Williams recovered at the last second, blocked the shot, and grabbed the rebound. Cal Poly Pomona then started playing the foul game and took advantage of some missed free throws to make it a two-point game with five seconds left off a McWilliam clutch three. After exchanging more free throws, the score was 68–66 for the Tritons, but Cal Poly Pomona had the ball. On the last possession of the game, senior guard Taylor Tanita had the tough defensive assignment of stopping McWilliam, but Tanita played some admirable defense to force the miss from three and snag the win for the Tritons.
When asked if there was any doubt in her mind about the Tritons hanging on to get the win, Yang simply answered with an emphatic “never.”
UCSD was outshot by Cal Poly Pomona over the game, but after being dominating in the paint in the first half, steadied the ship in the second and eventually outrebounded its opponents. Ricketson, McWilliam, and Waddy-Blow all scored in double figures, with Ricketson adding five rebounds and five assists to her 22 points, a game-high, but the Tritons saw their aggressive playing style pay off in the end, shooting a whooping 22 free throws and making 19 of them. Yang, Sampton, Sato, and Williams all scored in double-digits, and Williams also had a double-double with 10 rebounds. Tanita only scored three points, but she caused problems for the Broncos all night, pushing the pace and finishing with six assists. The Tritons’ bench scored zero points on the night, with the starters accounting for all 68 points that got them the win.
“Spirit night is always so much fun”, Yang told the Guardian.
vs. Cal State San Bernardino
Back in action on Saturday, UCSD travelled to California State University, San Bernardino to take on the Coyotes. With the 60–51 win, UCSD clinched a third consecutive CCAA regular season title.
It was a tight game all through the fourth quarter. Up 54–51, UCSD rode a strong defensive effort to victory, shutting out Cal State San Bernardino for the last five minutes of the game.
Sampton had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Williams had her second double-double in two days with 15 points and 12 rebounds.Sato also produced well, with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Next week, the Tritons will be on the road for the last time this regular season, when they take a two game trip to California State University, Chico on Feb. 15 and Humboldt State University on Feb. 17.