Page 2 From The #BWT: Curry Gets Cooking For Highlanders
By Jill Painter Lopez
Curry has done it again.
That’s UC Riverside’s Michelle Curry, of course. There’s no relation to Stephen Curry, but Michelle Curry sure made like the NBA star as she took over the Big West Women’s Basketball Tournament Presented by MemorialCare on Wednesday.
Curry scored a career-high 40 points - including 18 points from the free-throw line - to lead No. 6 seed UC Riverside to an 86-74 upset victory over No. 3 UC Irvine on Wednesday.
Riverside (11-21) faces No. 1 seed UC Davis (24-5) in the semifinals on Friday at Honda Center.
Curry scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to lead UC Riverside and played most of the fourth quarter with four fouls.
“As soon as the game started, the refs were calling it close so we knew we had to attack and that we would most likely go to the free-throw line, so I took advantage of that,” Curry said. “I just wanted to get the job done. I wanted to go to the Honda Center. It was a team effort and we had a lot of energy coming off the bench.”
Curry’s 40 points was the most ever by a Highlanders women’s basketball player since the program moved to Division I in 2001.
As she and teammate Lauren Holt walked into the postgame interview room, Holt jokingly apologized for her teammates’ appearance.
“You will have to excuse Michelle’s hair,” Holt said with a laugh. “We dumped some water on it.”
The Highlanders christened her 40-point performance with water in the team’s locker room, and then Curry did a dance in the celebratory circle. UC Riverside is having fun.
The Highlanders, who just won their 11th game of the season, are on a roll, and Curry is leading them.
Curry is tied for third in scoring the most points for a conference tournament game. And her 18 free throws was also a tournament record.
But for Curry, it was all about leading her team to its second victory in the tournament.
Riverside gets a day off before facing the top seeded Aggies in the semifinals.
Riverside beat UC Davis 76-62 in the regular season finale last week. UC Davis hasn’t played since then by virtue of its bye through to the semifinals.
Curry said she didn’t realize how many points she’d scored until the fourth quarter.
“It’s crazy. She didn’t realize she had 40 until the game was almost over,” Holt said. “People that are scoring that many points are usually worried about it and looking up to see how many points. She’s not even worried about that. She’s worried about getting to the Honda Center. She knew she had to play her role and take over, and she took over.”
FOURTH QUARTER SURGE LEADS CSUN TO UPSET WIN
UC Santa Barbara was determined to not let Big West Conference MVP Channon Fluker beat them in the paint, so they double teamed her. The rest of the Matadors didn’t win via their usual ways, but they still found a way to upset UC Santa Barbara, 72-63 in the quarterfinals of the Big West Women’s Basketball Tournament Presented by MemorialCare on Wednesday at Cal State Fullerton.
With the game tied at 53 early in the fourth quarter, the Matadors (17-15) went on an 11-0 run to take a 64-53 it wouldn’t lose. Tessa Boagni scored a team-high 16 points, and Destiny Brooks scored 15 points and made 5 of 11 3-pointers, and one of those treys came in that decisive fourth-quarter run.
“I think it was our energy,” Brooks said. “We were really energized, saying, ‘Let’s do this for our seniors. It was a great team effort. We had a lot of ball movement. Our focus was getting the ball inside and then getting it out so I think we accomplished that.”
Fluker was held to just one shot and six points in the first half. However, the Matadors made some halftime adjustments and Fluker got more looks in the second half. She finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
“They were doubling her before she even touched the basketball,” CSUN coach Jason Flowers said. “They made the decision that other people are going to have to beat them. We had some kids that made some big shots.”
Four players scored in double figures for CSUN. Not having a customary dominant performance from Fluker didn’t mean the end of a season. To the contrary, CSUN would have to win two more games if it is to win the Big West Tournament. The Matadors will play No. 2 seed Cal Poly in the semifinals on Friday. The teams split their games in the regular season, with CSUN winning the latest matchup.
IT’S NOT OVER YET FOR THE ANTEATERS
UC Irvine won 18 games this season with a young team, so there was hardly much for coach Tamara Inoue to be upset about following her team’s loss to UC Riverside in the Big West Women’s Basketball Tournament Presented by MemorialCare.
She guided the Anteaters to a 13-game improvement over last year’s 5-26 team, which tied for the biggest turnaround in Division I this season.
Morgan Green scored 17 points and Jordan Sanders and Andee Ritter scored 16 and 11 respectively for the Anteaters (18-13).
Even though the Anteaters won’t make the NCAA Tournament, there are other postseason tournaments, like the WNIT.
Asked to reflect on the season, Inoue said: “We’re not done yet. We’re going to the postseason. I’ve got my athletic director in the room, and he promised we’ll be going to the postseason. So, we’re going postseason. We’re not done yet. What you can see is a sign of a young team, a lot of lows and a lot of highs. A lot of adjustments. Learning quickly. I think toward the end of the season, it’s a long season, and when you rely on the majority of the team being freshmen and sophomores, it’s a physical drain.
“Understanding it’s a long season. .... Morgan does a good job out there but we need more than one person. That will come with experience moving forward.”
The Anteaters had no seniors in the starting lineup. Green is one of two juniors, along with two freshmen and one sophomore.
Green, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, is also hopeful that UC Irvine can gain more experience in the postseason.
“I think there were a lot of positives to take from this year, and it’s not over as Coach said,” Green said. “We had a great turnaround. Eighteen wins. We could potentially win some more by the end of the season. From there, it’s all about the marginal growth after that. We had a vast improvement this season and that’s such a great thing. I don’t think we should be so down on ourselves. We had a great year. Hopefully in a postseason tournament we can get to 20 wins. Hopefully, we can look back and see all the things we overcame this season.”
DREW EDELMAN CAPS AWESOME FINISH AT UCSB
Senior forward Drew Edelman, who transferred to UC Santa Barbara from USC, finished her career with another fine performance. She had a double double with 18 points and 12 rebounds (her 12th double double of the season) in the No. 4 seed Gauchos’ loss to the fifth-seeded Matadors in the Big West Women’s Basketball Tournament Presented by MemorialCare quarterfinals on Wednesday.
“I can’t really remember when I wasn’t playing college basketball,” Edelman said. “I feel like I’ve been doing this for a really long time. It doesn’t seem real that it’s over. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m just going to miss it.”
In the postgame locker room chat, UCSB coach Bonnie Henrickson asked the outgoing seniors to tell everyone what they wanted to do next, so that everyone could hold them accountable to their goal. Edelman, who might try to play professionally overseas, said she told everyone she didn’t know what she wanted to do. Edelman, who was a freshman at USC in 2013-14, sat out a year, but decided she wanted to return to basketball. Henrickson joked that she’ll get her AARP in the mail now that she’s done with college basketball.
Edelman had hoped to help the Gauchos to the NCAA Tournament. Last year, UCSB lost a nail biter to Long Beach State in the conference tournament championship.
“Having the result of last year losing by one in the championship game and losing so early this year, I didn’t think we reached our full potential,” Edelman said. “It stinks to go out like this. We had moments of greatness where you see all that we were capable of.”
The Gauchos finished 12-17 and overcame a 1-9 start to the season.