LA JOLLA, Calif. — The Tritons are quickly building a reputation as a second-half team.
The University of California San Diego women’s basketball team was at its best in the third quarter on Saturday night, en route to defeating Cal State LA, 75-71, at RIMAC Arena.
Sophomore forward Mikayla Williams led the way with a career-high 26 points, six rebounds and two steals for the Tritons, who won for the 21st time in their last 22 games and will play host to Sonoma State in the first round of the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Tournament on Tuesday.
After trailing by one at halftime, UC San Diego (25-3, 21-1 CCAA) outscored Cal State LA 19-8 in the third quarter to take control of the game. The Tritons have now outscored its opponent in the second half in nine of its last 10 games.
“The game wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but we found ways to win,” said Tanita, who entered Saturday’s game ranked seventh in the nation in assists and now has 171 on the season. “We knew coming into halftime we had to pick it up defensively. We did that and it was enough tonight.”
Senior Rikke Fabricius scored a game-high 29 points with seven rebounds to lead Cal State LA (14-14, 13-9 CCAA), but was held to only eight points in the second half.
The Tritons out-rebounded the Golden Eagles, 36-31, and have held a rebounding edge in each of their last 22 contests. UC San Diego entered Saturday’s game ranked third in the nation in rebounding margin, outrebounding opponents by an average of 10.9 per game.
The two teams exchanged leads in the first half before the Tritons came out with a renewed focus to start the third quarter.
Junior Joleen Yang’s driving layup put UC San Diego in front for good just seconds into the second half, and consecutive buckets inside by Sampton extended the Tritons’ lead to 40-35 with 5:34 left in the quarter.
Williams’ mid-range jumper pushed the lead to seven and a deep 3-pointer by Yang to beat the third-quarter buzzer gave UCSD its largest lead of the night to that point, 53-43.
Williams shot 10-for-11 (90.9) from the field on Saturday and ranks second in the CCAA in field-goal percentage (54.9). Teik Francis holds the program’s all-time record with a 15-of-16 (93.8) performance back on Nov. 26, 1983, against UC Santa Cruz (minimum 10 attempts).
Williams also shot 6-of-7 from the free-throw line on Saturday and is 34-for-39 (87 percent) over the Tritons last seven games.
UC San Diego is the No. 1 seed in next week’s CCAA Tournament and will take on No. 8 seed Sonoma State in the quarterfinal at RIMAC Arena beginning at 5:30 p.m.