LONG BEACH, CALIF. -- The number five-seeded UC Riverside Highlanders got off to a slow start but overcame early jitters to rout the number eight-seeded UC Irvine Anteaters in the opening game of the Big West Women's Basketball tournament Tuesday night.
UC Irvine opened up on 12-2 run with nine of those coming on three three-point baskets by Andee Ritter and the Anteaters were thinking upset. Riverside forced eight turnovers, which led to easy points in transition and helped them settle down and go on a 20-4 blitz to take control of the game and hold a 22-16 lead after the first quarter. Riverside defense showed up again at the end of the second period as Irvine didn't make a basket in the last four minutes. The Highlanders led with a 46-33 score at halftime
In the second half, the Highlanders made things difficult for the Anteaters to score when they held them to only 27 points. Riverside put away the game with a 23-13 advantage in the third period; the margin was as close as nine points inside the first three minutes of period but the Anteaters were never able to string a solid run together.
Five players scored in double figures for UC Riverside as they advance to play UC Santa Barbara in the second round.
After being down 2-12 to begin the game, UCR scored 14 unanswered points and never looked back.
Simone Decoud, Riverside - Produced a double double with 22 points and 11 rebounds. She did most of the damage when she scored 12 of her points in first half. She made two threes and was 6-7 from the free throw line.
Lauren Holt, Riverside - Had a double double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Holt got buckets any way you can think of, whether it was driving the lane, shooting a mid range, or from behind the arc, Holt did it all, including two blocks on defense.
Michelle Curry, Riverside - Scored 20 points in the game. She continuously forced the issue by attacking the basket with physicality and caused Irvine to drop in the paint, which opened up shooters on outside.
Andee Ritter, Irvine - She made five three-point baskets in the game. After a hot start, she became the focal point of Riverside's defense. She was 7-15 from the field overall.
Post game quotes
UC Riverside Coach John Margaritas on the slow start:
"Before the game we talked about emotions of the tournament. So when that [slow start] happened, we were prepared to continue playing our game, knowing that it's 40 minutes."
Coach Margaritas on Michelle Curry:
"Her ability to stay on the floor after foul trouble played a huge role in the outcome of the game. I thought 'Either we're going to play without her and not have enough points to win or I can keep her in the game and let things go as they go.' I'd rather lose a game because a player fouled not because I thought she was going to foul out."
Lauren Holt on take away from this game:
"Just confidence... It was a great game to have under our belt. Everyone showed up. We were firing on all cylinders. We started off slow but we were able to come back. We got our nerves to calm down and settle in. The biggest thing going in to tomorrow is knowing we got our jitters out of the way and we don't have to play so tight.