Seattle University women’s basketball (5-7) held the lead through the first half of play but a hot shooting third quarter for UC Riverside (6-6) would give the Highlanders the 92-70 win in the teams’ final pre-holiday contest.

“They jumped on us early and we just didn’t respond,” said head coach Joan Bonvicini. “They’re a really good team with very good guards but it comes down to toughness and defense. We played a good first quarter, hung with them in the second quarter, and then it was a disappointing second half. On the positive side, it was a good shooting night for Tal [Sahar]. We have to be smarter and need to come back from the break re-focused.”

The Redhawks took the first lead and, after the Highlanders tied the game, 2-2, for four minutes of the first quarter, Tal Sahar (Tarzana, Calif.) hit her first three to put the Redhawks ahead, 5-2, at 4:49. UC Riverside clawed within one but another Sahar three gave the Redhawks a 14-10 lead through the first 10 minutes of play.

UC Riverside’s Michelle Curry tied the game at 19 two minutes into the second quarter but the Redhawks extended their lead back out to six, 25-19, by just under the seven minute mark. Masha Shtikel (Shoreline, Wash.) hit a three with 4:26 left before half to give the Redhawks their largest lead of the game, 30-23 and, despite a 10-5 Highlander run, SU remained on top by two at half, 35-33.

The Highlanders outscored the Redhawks, 31-19, in the third quarter, which would make the difference as they took the lead on a Curry free throw at 7:45, 38-37. Over the remainder of the quarter, the Highlanders outscored the Redhawks, 26-17, to hold a double digit lead heading into the final 10 minutes. Taelor Ross (Vancouver, Wash.) pulled SU within one, 43-42, with six and a half minutes left in the quarter, going 1-for-2 from the line, but it would be as close as the Redhawks would come to regaining the lead for the remainder of the contest.

Sahar led Seattle U with a career-high 23 points on six three-pointers while Ross followed closely behind with 18 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Five different Highlanders scored in double figures, led by Rejane Verin with a double-double (27 points, 11 rebounds).

Despite the loss, the Redhawks shot well from all areas, shooting 47.4 percent from both the field (27-for-57) and from behind the arc (9-for-19), as well as 87.5 percent (7-for-8) from the line.

Seattle U has a week off for a holiday break before heading to Oregon next Monday, Dec. 28. The Redhawks return home for a New Year’s Eve game at 2 p.m. vs. Long Beach State.

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