Despite some strong individual performances, UC San Diego’s women’s basketball team (2–5, 2–5 Big West) was unable to take a game from the top team in the Big West, California State University, Long Beach (9–1, 8–0 Big West), in a back-to-back series at RIMAC Arena, losing 54–50 on Jan. 29 and 74–53 on Jan. 30.
The UCSD Tritons entered Friday’s game having lost two in a row against UC Davis in their first road games of the season, while Long Beach State — whose official team nickname is indeed “the Beach” — have torn through their Big West schedule, losing only a single December non-conference matchup with the University of Southern California.
Nevertheless, UCSD started out hot, with junior guard Sydney Brown scoring the first 7 points of the game by herself, and a triple from fellow junior guard Brianna Claros put the Tritons up 10–0 to start the contest. But despite three-pointers from UCSD’s freshman guard Parker Montgomery and redshirt junior guard Emily Cangelosi, the Beach were able to claw their way back in the second quarter with a 15–6 run, and the Tritons led by just one point going into halftime, 28–27.
While the game remained close, the Tritons were locked out offensively for much of the third quarter, as they went 5:43 without a point after a Brown jumper early in the quarter. Still, UCSD kept it close going into the fourth, trailing by just four. The Tritons struck first in the fourth quarter, with a three-pointer and a paint jumper from Brown helping give UCSD the lead back with 8 minutes to go in the contest. Indeed, with just 2 minutes left following a Brown layup, the Tritons led by 3.
But a free throw followed by a three-pointer gave the Beach a one-point lead with 41 seconds to go. With 28 seconds remaining, UCSD senior guard Tyla Turner missed a short jumper, but got her own rebound; after the following timeout, Claros missed another jumper, and the Tritons were forced to foul. The Beach’s Justina King knocked down both of her free throws to put them up 3. After another timeout, Turner missed a potential tying three-pointer, and while UCSD was able to get the rebound, Brown’s attempt from beyond the arc met the same fate, and Long Beach snagged the rebound to seal the win.
The Tritons didn’t have a great night shooting, especially in a fourth quarter where they went just 3-of-15 on field goals and 1-of-8 on 3-point attempts. UCSD was also just 5-of-10 on free-throws, shots that would have swung the game had they fallen in the Tritons’ favor. Still, Sydney Brown had a career night, snagging a career-high 15 rebounds to go alongside a game-high 23 points on 9-of-20 shooting.
The next night, Jan. 30, against Long Beach State once again, 2 early triples from Turner had the Tritons up 11–6 halfway through the first quarter, but an 8–0 run from the Beach had them up 2 after the first period. Long Beach continued their momentum in the second quarter, as a 3-point barrage helped them build an 11-point advantage midway through the period. An 8–0 run in the final 100 seconds of the half consisting of 2 threes from Montgomery with a Cangelosi bucket in between, however, put the Tritons right back in it at the half, trailing just 31–28.
In the third quarter, although the Beach never got on a run, they were able to build on their lead, scoring 14 paint points to the Tritons’ 4 in the period, helping them get their advantage back up to double digits. Despite three-pointers on back-to-back possessions for Turner, UCSD trailed by 11 going into the fourth quarter. That lead would only grow, as the Tritons were held scoreless for the first 3 minutes of the fourth before a fastbreak layup from Brown cut the lead to 14. After another layup from redshirt senior forward Layla Ybarra-Harvey made it 64–50, the Tritons were once again held scoreless, this time for 6 entire minutes. This allowed the Beach to get the lead up to 24, and although junior guard Madison Baxter made a last-second three-pointer to end the scoreless streak, the Beach took this contest convincingly, 74–53.
Some similar issues surfaced in this game for the Tritons, as in the fourth quarter, they shot just 3-for-14 from the field and 1-for-7 from downtown, leading to those 2 scoreless stretches that lasted more than 9 minutes combined. Tyla Turner was a bright spot in this one for UCSD, leading the team with 16 points and 8 assists, as well as a scorching 5-for-7 (71.4%) from three. Although Brown did lead the team in rebounds again with 8, she wasn’t able to recreate her shooting from the day before, going 4-for-13.
Next week, the Tritons will travel to Honolulu for a pair of Big West games against the University of Hawaii (3–4, 2–3 Big West), before returning to RIMAC Arena for a series against California State University, Bakersfield (6–6, 4–4 Big West).
Photo courtesy of UC San Diego Athletics / Scott Flanders