ONTARIO, Calif. - The UC San Diego women's basketball team led by 21 points in the first half but suffered a 60-59 defeat against Cal State L.A. Thursday in California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament first round action at Citizens Business Bank Arena.
Playing in its seventh consecutive CCAA Tournament, fourth-seeded UCSD fell to 16-11 overall. CSULA, the fifth seed, improved to 17-10.
The Golden Eagles advance to take on top-seeded and 18th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona (21-5) Friday at 5:30 p.m. in a semifinal. The Tritons, eliminated from the tournament, will learn Sunday if they have done enough to earn a berth in the NCAA Championships.
UCSD made 60 percent (15-25) of its shots in the opening half, but just 16 percent (4-25) in the second. The Tritons netted a single two-point basket over the final 20 minutes and were held scoreless for the last 7:24 of the game.
"I think we got very similar shots in both halves, but our offense ran at a much better pace and we were much sharper in the first," said UCSD head coach Heidi VanDerveer. "In the second half, we let our inability to get stops control the tempo of the game. Our defense did not dig its heels in and protect our rim."
A free throw by Miranda Seto with 7:24 remaining in the contest put UCSD up by 10, 59-49, but it was the final point the Tritons would put on the board.
With 44.1 seconds left and her team trailing by a point, CSULA's Tina Fantroy was fouled while driving. She made the first free throw to tie the game at 59-59, but missed the second. On UCSD's ensuing possession, Seto missed a layup in traffic and Kaija Powell pulled down the defensive rebound. With 9.9 ticks on the clock, Alisha Belt drew a foul and made one of two free throws to give the Golden Eagles a 60-59 lead, the first time they had been ahead since the 12:31 mark of the first half. The Tritons inbounded the ball cleanly and went the length of the floor. Erin Dautremont drove from the right side, but her layup missed the mark as time expired.
"They (Cal State L.A.) came out and were more aggressive than we were and I feel like we were just on our toes and not ready for it," said Seto. "We had no answer for them."
For UCSD, Seto and Dana Webster each finished with 14 points. Seto added seven rebounds and four assists, while Webster was 5-for-7 from the floor. Dautremont hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds.
Fantroy led all players with 16 points. Belt totaled 12 points and Powell was just behind with 11. Fantroy and Powell each had eight boards.
Overall, UCSD shot 38 percent (19-50) and made 46 percent (10-22) of its three-point attempts. CSULA shot 40 percent (21-53) for the game, which included a 50 percent (12-24) clip in the second half. The Golden Eagles scored 28 points in the paint, while the Tritons got 25 points from their bench.
UCSD led 41-23 at halftime after making seven three-pointers, including two each from Perry and Webster. Webster finished with 12 points and Seto had 10 in the half.
A layup by Destinee La Fountain at 12:31 gave CSULA a 12-11 lead, but Perry canned a three-pointer at 11:43 to put UCSD up 14-12 and the Tritons were able to hold a lead until Fantroy's free throw with 44 seconds left in the game.
With 31 seconds remaining in the first frame, a three by Haley Anderson gave UCSD a 21-point lead at 41-20, its largest advantage of the contest.
UC San Diego had won the previous five games between the two teams dating back to the 2011-12 season. It was the third straight CCAA Tournament that the Tritons and Golden Eagles had met. UCSD defeated Cal State L.A., 66-61, in last season's championship game to win their first-ever league tournament title.
UCSD took both regular season meetings this year, winning by scores of 78-61 and 68-61.
"Our defense (in both regular season meetings) was much better than it was tonight," said VanDerveer. "We just never really made a stand defensively and that's disappointing because in the last three weeks, our defense has been very good."
The field for the 2014 NCAA Championships will be announced Sunday, March 9, at 7 p.m. Pacific. A live selection show will be broadcast at NCAA.com.