HAYWARD, Calif. — Sophomore forward Mikayla Williams scored a game-high 18 points with seven rebounds to lift the University of California San Diego women’s basketball team to a victory over Cal State East Bay, 76-70, Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last season’s California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championship game.
UC San Diego has now won 11-consecutive games overall and four of the last seven meetings against East Bay, including postseason play. UCSD went unscathed during this week’s two-game road trip, also defeating Cal State Monterey Bay, 65-56, on Thursday.
“Anytime you can get two wins on the road, that’s a great thing,” said UC San Diego head coach Heidi VanDerveer. “We were tested differently in both games.
“We made really good plays down the stretch to get the win (on Saturday). I was excited to see different people step up.”
The Tritons (15-2, 11-0 CCAA) remain all alone at the top of the CCAA standings, and are 2.5 games ahead of second-place Cal Poly Pomona heading into the Broncos’ road matchup against third-place Chico State on Saturday night.
But Cal State East Bay stayed close and rallied to tied the score, 67-67, with 2:24 to go on a jumper by junior guard Kayla Blair. After two free throws by UC San Diego junior Kayla Sato, Blair knocked down a three to put the Pioneers ahead for the first time in the second half, 70-69, with 1:49 left.
Williams answered with a bucket inside as the Tritons regained the lead with 1:15 to go, and senior Dalayna Sampton’s steal and layup pushed the lead to three, 73-70, with 35 seconds left. Senior guard Taylor Tanita sank two free throws with 11 seconds left to seal UC San Diego’s pivotal conference road win.
Yang scored 17 points, including five 3-pointers, Sato tallied 14 points, Tanita finished with 12 points and eight assists, and Sampton recorded eight points, 11 rebounds and three steals. Junior guard Elayshia Woolridge led East Bay with 16 points.
UC San Diego shot 49.2 percent from the field, including 42.1 percent from 3-point range (8-of-19). The Tritons out-rebounded the Pioneers 37-34, and held East Bay to 42.9 percent shooting from the field.
The Tritons led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter and took a 41-34 lead into intermission behind four first-half 3-pointers by Yang. Leading by one midway through the second quarter, layups by Sato and Williams pushed UC San Diego’s lead to 30-25 with 3:27 left in the half.
Yang’s fourth 3-pointer of the first half pushed the Tritons’ lead to seven with just under a minute to go in the second quarter.
Although the Tritons haven’t lost since Nov. 25, VanDerveer insists the winning streak isn’t a topic of conversation within the locker room. UCSD’s longest winning streak all-time is 26-straight to begin the 2011-12 season.
“We haven’t really concentrated on the streak,” she said. “We’re concentrating on trying to get better each day, each game.
“We have a lot of room for improvement.”