Photo by: UC San Diego Athletics
Kayla Sato scored 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench on Thursday night.

True Hollywood Story: Sato's Return Lifts No. 9 Tritons Past Cal State LA, 81-72

UC San Diego

LOS ANGELES — Kayla Sato returned at the perfect time for the Tritons.

After missing the previous nine games with a shoulder injury, the senior guard was back in the lineup and scored 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench to lift the No. 9 University of California San Diego women’s basketball team to a hard-fought road victory over Cal State LA, 81-72.

A native of nearby Torrance, Calif., Sato shot 6-of-13 from the field with four 3-pointers to help the Tritons erase a 10-point halftime deficit and remain undefeated.

“It feels like I haven’t played in forever,” said Sato, who also recorded six rebounds. “The injury was tough, but my team has helped me and it’s been awesome.

“Mentally, I was able to see why I really love playing basketball.”

Freshman guard Julia Macabuhay scored a team-high 18 points for the Tritons, junior forward Mikayla Williams finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds and junior forward Haleigh Hatfield added eight points and 13 rebounds.

UC San Diego (12-0, 8-0 CCAA) has now won 15-consecutive conference road games, with its last loss coming in the same gym against the Golden Eagles on Feb. 11, 2017.

The Tritons have won 18-straight California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) regular-season contests overall and 32 of its last 33.

After shooting 6-for-32 from the field and 5-for-22 from 3-point range in the first half, the Tritons trailed by as many as 13 points late in the second quarter.

However, UC San Diego was a different team coming out of halftime.

Consecutive Macabuhay 3-pointers cut the deficit to seven just two minutes into the second half, and Hatfield’s offensive rebound and bucket made it 35-30 with 7:20 to go in the third. Junior Sydney Sharp’s three pulled the Tritons within six, Macabuhay followed with a driving bucket while fouled and Hatfield’s 3-pointer made it a two-point game, 41-39, forcing a Cal State LA (6-5, 3-4) timeout with 4:56 to go in the third. 

Williams’ offensive rebound and layup inside tied it, 41-41, with four minutes left in the third, and the junior forward’s strong baseline drive and bucket put the Tritons on top by two with 2:45 to go in the third. 

A three from Sato made it 48-43 and her the senior’s driving layup as time expired in the period gave the Tritons a 53-49 lead going into the fourth.

And she wasn’t done there. Another 3-pointer by Sato from top of the key pushed the lead to eight with 4:30 to play, and her fourth 3-pointer of the night made it 69-61 with just under three minutes remaining.

UC San Diego continues its two-game road trip on Saturday, as the Tritons take on Cal State Dominguez Hills beginning at 1 p.m.

About UC San Diego Athletics
With 30 national team championships, nearly 150 individual titles and the top student-athlete graduation rate among Division II institutions in the United States, the UC San Diego intercollegiate athletics program annually ranks as one of the most successful in the country.  The Tritons sponsor 23 intercollegiate sport programs that compete on the NCAA Division I and II levels and, in summer 2020, will transition into full Division I status as a member of the Big West Conference.  UC San Diego student-athletes exemplify the academic ideals of one of the world's preeminent institutions, graduating at an average rate of 91 percent.  A total of 80 Tritons have earned Academic All-America honors, while 36 have earned prestigious NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships.  In competition, more than 1,300 UC San Diego student-athletes have earned All-America honors.

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