Dec. 28, 2006
RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Junior forward Kemie Nkele scored a game-high 21 points and hauled in 13 rebounds leading four players in double figures as UC Riverside defeated UC Santa Barbara 70-57 in the Big West Conference opener Thursday night at the UCR Student Recreation Center. Despite playing in foul trouble for most of the game, junior center Jenna Green led the Gauchos in scoring for the fourth consecutive game with 13 points.
With the victory, their fifth in the last six games, the Highlanders improve to 7-6 overall and 1-0 in the Big West, while the Gauchos fall to 4-8 and 0-1 after dropping their second straight.
UCSB lost its Big West conference opener for the first time since the 1988-89 season, head coach Mark French's second year at the helm of the Gauchos and Santa Barbara's first season as a member of the Big West.
Nkele's 21 points came on 7-for-12 shooting and she made seven of 10 free throw attempts. Forward Roney Friend went 4-for-6 and finished with 15 points, guard Brittany Waddell drained 3-of-5 attempts from behind the three-point arc chipping in with 14, and center Katerina Glyniadaki made all six of her shots from the floor for 12 points to lead the Highlanders. Nkele also finished with five blocks.
In addition to Green, who played a season-low 22 minutes after she was whistled for her third foul with 7:37 left in the first half, two other players scored in double figures for the Gauchos. Junior Guard Jessica Wilson overcame a poor shooting night to finish with 11 points, while fellow guard Chisa Ononiwu added 10 - six of which came at the foul line - in her first start in the blue and gold.
UCR started strong, going inside to Glyniadaki for consecutive baskets to take a 6-4 lead. The teams traded buckets and were tied at 12 until the home team rattled off a 10-2 run, highlighted by a pair of three-pointers from Waddell en route to a 22-14 lead with 6:10 left. With Green hampered by foul trouble, the Gauchos cut the deficit to 24-22 on a steal and driving layup from Ononiwu. Nkele got loose inside for a layup and Waddell knocked down another three just before the half as the Highlanders went into the locker room leading 29-22.
UCR shot a blistering 66.7% (12-for-18) from the field in the first half but was undone by 17 turnovers and 25% shooting at the foul lin. UCSB was 7-for-29 (24.1%) from the floor and missed all five of its three-point attempts in the opening period, but made 8-of-12 (66.7%) from the line to keep it close.
The Highlanders opened the second half on an 11-4 run to extend their lead to 16, 42-26, with 10:49 left. Green picked up her fourth foul on a three-point play by Nkele with 17:19 remaining in the game that put UCR ahead 34-26. After that, Riverside went inside, continually lobbing to Glyniadaki as the Gauchos struggled to contain the 6-5 center.
UCSB chipped away with a 7-2 run to cut it to 44-35. Freshman Jordan Franey knocked down a three-pointer - the Gauchos' first of the game, with 4:54 left to trim the lead to seven, 50-43. Despite four Highlanders playing with four fouls, that would be as close as UCSB would get as Friend made two free-throws and Nkele broke the Gaucho spirits, grabbing an offensive rebound and hitting a turn-around 17-footer as the shot clock wound down to lift the Highlander lead back up to double-digits. Friend made four more free throws and Waddell sank five as the Highlanders pulled away.
Santa Barbara shot a season-low from the field for the second game in a row, making just 19-of-68 shots, 27.9% for the game. Riverside shot 52.4%, hitting 22-of-42 attempts from the field. The Highlanders also out-rebounded the Gauchos by a 44-34 margin and finished with 10 blocked shots, a season-high for a UCSB opponent.
Santa Barbara made just 3-of-20 three-point attempts (15%), while Riverside knocked down 3-of-9 (33.3%).
In addition to taking 26 more shots than the Highlanders, the Gauchos also took care of the ball, turning it over just 13 times to Riverside's 26, but were only able to translate that into 11 points. Santa Barbara grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and held an 11-4 advantage in second chance points.
UCSB concludes its Southern California road trip with a match-up at Cal State Fullerton Saturday. The Gauchos and Titans will tip-off at 2:00 p.m. at Titan Gym.