LA JOLLA, Calif. — The Triton players didn’t want all the credit for Friday night’s victory.
The raucous home crowd did its part, too.
The University of California San Diego women’s basketball team rallied in the fourth quarter and held on late to defeat Cal Poly Pomona, 68-66, in front of a loud, energetic crowd on Spirit Night at RIMAC Arena.
Senior forward Dalayna Sampton finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, while junior guard Joleen Yang also scored 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Sophomore forward Mikayla Williams posted her ninth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Junior Kayla Sato added 13 points, five assists and three steals.
UC San Diego (20-3, 16-1 CCAA) has won 16 of its last 17 games and now has a four-game lead for first-place in the conference standings with five regular-season games remaining.
Friday night was a matchup of two of the CCAA’s top teams, as the Tritons entered the game ranked first in the conference in scoring offense, while Cal Poly Pomona is first in scoring defense.
Sampton believes the home-court advantage on Spirit Night made the difference in the final outcome.
“I really think our team came together when we needed to most,” said Sampton, who scored 15 of her 18 points in the second half. “In the last five minutes our energy was great and you could feel the crowd’s energy.
“There’s nothing like (Spirit Night). I’m going to give the crowd a lot of the credit for the win.”
Cal Poly Pomona (15-8, 12-6 CCAA) led by two entering the fourth quarter and held a six-point advantage with six minutes left to play after Chelsea Waddy-Blow’s bucket inside capped off an 8-0 run by the Broncos.
Sampton started the comeback by scoring inside, then made a jumper from the free-throw line to pull the Tritons within 58-54 with 4:30 remaining.
Sato came up with a steal near half court, and while falling to the floor, dished it off to Williams for an easy two. Sato followed with two free throws moments later as the Tritons went on an 8-0 run of their own tie the score, 58-58, with three minutes to go.
Another basket inside by Sampton put UC San Diego ahead, 63-60, with 1:30 to play. After Cal Poly Pomona’s Priscilla Brooks missed two free throws, Sato tracked down an offensive rebound on senior Taylor Tanita’s corner three.
That led to two Williams’ free throws to extend the lead to 64-60 with 32 seconds left, and the Tritons held on from there.
UC San Diego resumes conference play on Saturday evening, as the Tritons hit the road to face Cal State San Bernardino beginning at 5:30 p.m.