LA JOLLA, Calif. -
Behind the strong play of its three seniors, the top-seeded UC San Diego women's basketball team defeated No. 4 seed Western Washington, 81-66, in the second round of the NCAA Division II West Regional on Saturday evening at RIMAC Arena.
The senior trio of Chelsea Carlisle, Daisy Feder and Lauren Freidenberg combined to score 53 points for the Tritons, who jumped all over the Vikings in the opening half and cruised home from there. UCSD shot 45% in the period and built a commanding 25-point lead to punch its ticket to Monday's West Regional Championship game with ease.
The Tritons, who are now 30-2 on the season, will take on second-seeded Alaska Anchorage for the regional title on Monday at 7:00 p.m., with the winner advancing to the Elite Eight in San Antonio beginning on March 20. The Seawolves (29-4) defeated No. 3 seed Grand Canyon, 77-58, in Saturday's first semifinal matchup.
"I thought the way that we came out in the first half was some of the best basketball we've played all year, and I was very pleased with the energy and focus," head coach Charity Elliott said. "Our kids just did a great job. We beat a very good Western Washington team tonight and I'm proud of how we were able to get them on their heels early on."
Carlisle scored 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting for the Tritons, who shot an even 40% (24-60) from the field for the game. The reigning West Region Player of the Year also finished with game-highs of seven assists and five steals in 37 minutes.
Feder tallied 19 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Freidenberg finished with 14 points and 12 boards for her sixth double-double of the season. Megan Perry chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Britt Harris scored a game-high 23 points and hauled down eight boards in a losing effort for Western Washington, which wraps up its season with an overall record of 22-8. Kristin Schramm scored 21 points on 8-of-19 shooting for the Vikings.
For the second time in as many nights, the Tritons came out swinging and built an early lead in the first half. After leading by as many as 20 in the opening period of Friday's victory over eighth-seeded Chico State, it was more of the same on Saturday as UCSD used a balanced offensive attack and strong defensive play to build a resounding 50-27 halftime advantage.
The Tritons were in control from the outset, grabbing an 11-5 lead on a putback by Freidenberg three and a half minutes in and then extending their advantage to 15-7 on a three-pointer by Perry two minutes later.
UCSD outscored WWU 15-4 over the next five minutes to push its lead to 30-11 and the route was on from there. Carlisle scored four points during the stretch, while Feder capped off the run with a pair of free throws and a deep three.
The Vikings trimmed the deficit to 15 at 34-19 following a triple from Schramm with 7:16 left in the period, but the Tritons came back with the next seven points to push the margin to 22 with 5:46 remaining. Perry's third trey of the half gave UCSD a 23-point cushion heading into the locker room.
The Tritons hit 17-of-38 shots in the half, including 6-of-13 from the three-point line, and scored 16 points off 15 Viking miscues. Carlisle and Freidenberg put in 12 points apiece, while Feder and Perry both had 10.
UCSD wasn't nearly as sharp in the second half, hitting just 7-of-27 from the field, but the damage had been done, as WWU could get no closer than 11 points down the stretch. The Vikings outscored the Tritons 39-31 in the period.
"Being tough, that's what the playoffs are about," Carlisle said. "The teams that get to this point, they're great teams. It's going to be those teams that come out, have that extra effort and have that toughness and thank goodness we had that in the first half. I think we got away from it a little bit in the second half, but our first half was good enough to where we were able to maintain that."
Western Washington finished just under 43% for the game, hitting 26 of its 61 shots from the field.
The Tritons, who became the first team in program history to win 30 games with Saturday's victory, will have to play well for a full 40 minutes if they're going to defeat Alaska Anchorage on Monday.
"I think Anchorage is a tremendous program," Elliott said. "They've been very successful for a very long time. They've been in this situation before. They know how to win. We're looking forward to it. It's going to be two very tough teams, going at it, going hard and playing for their seasons. I expect it to be a great game."
Monday will mark UCSD's first appearance in the West Regional Championship since 2007. The Tritons knocked off Chico State, 80-63, and went on to advance to the national semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion Southern Connecticut State.