After UC Riverside Highlanders beat the Washington Huskies 59-54 in Seattle, coach John Magaritis suggested that his team didn't really outplay the Huskies, but that it was anybody's game.
"I just thought that it was a tough game for us," said Margaritis. "I thought Washington played well. I thought Washington took every opportunity that we gave them and they took advantage of it. I thought that it was anybody's game all the way down to the last few minutes - we just made a couple of plays."
Statistically, that was definitely true in the second half in which the Huskies managed to fight their way back from down 12 at halftime to take a 46-44 lead with just over 8 minutes left.
The problem was the first half and that began with the Huskies' shooting.
Key statistic: shooting efficiency
In the first half, the Huskies shot 4-for-21 from the field for an effective field goal percentage of 21.43 percent (weighted for their 1-for-4 3-point shooting). Meanwhile, the Highlanders shot 11-for-35 in the first half and with their 5-for-13 shooting earning them an effective field goal percentage of 54 percent. Essentially, they saw an advantage on the perimeter and the Huskies struggled to overcome it.
"It depends on whether we have an advantage on the inside or outside," said Margaritis, whose team ran an offense predicated on movement above the free throw line. "If we have an inside, we'll go inside. But if we don't, we'll do something outside."
A large part of that was the play of Alyssa Morris.
Highlanders statistical MVP: Alyssa Morris
One of the more remarkable things about the game was that Morris managed to carry the Highlanders (44.5 percent of their overall statistical production) only using a moderate 20% of the possessions available to her while on the floor. The reason is that she was extremely efficient, finishing with an outstanding true shooting percentage of 85 percent while going 8-for-12 from the field with 22 points.
And most impressive was that she did it from everywhere.
"Last year, she led us in scoring and rebounding," said Margaritis when asked about Morris' game. "She can go to the basket if she has an advantage, but she's pretty complete. She shoots free throws, she makes outside shots. The scouting report is that her mid-range game is (just) ok, but the outside and going to the basket is good."
The fact that Morris shot considerably less shots in the second half and yet scored 10 of her 22 points after a dominant first half, definitely shows just how efficient a scorer she can be. On the other hand, it also meant that UCR had to find other ways to create shots.
Key player: Rheya Neabors
And in addition to having to make up the shots that Morris was no longer taking, the Highlanders also had to cope with the loss of Rheya Neabors, who was leading the team with five assists at halftime.
"The only difference from the beginning to [the eight minute mark in the second half] was that our twins were out," said Margaritis. "[Rhaya] fouled out and [Rheya] was, when we went into halftime, she was sick. She just kept throwing up and I couldn't play her in the second half. So we were trying to milk minutes out of it but the trainer kept saying, 'Out, out'. And so she was out and I was going to bring her in with four minutes to go and she said no, she's done.
"So I had to look at the rest of us and say this is it let's go. And it was just who's going to make some plays down the stretch."
In terms of making plays, Neabors was the most efficient playmaker on the floor. Though limited to seven minutes in the second half (after playing 15 in the first) due to what Margaritis suggested was food poisoning, she created an assist on an outstanding 43.22 percent of her possessions compared to turning it over on 14.40% percent for an excellent pure point rating of 9.09. That she also had a true shooting percentage of 59.52% means that Riverside lost both a weapon for their offense who was responsible for 25.44% of their overall production. That's difficult to replace by itself, not to mention the loss of twin sister Rhaya who fouled out on the play that gave Washington their go ahead free throws with 8:12 left.
The twins and Morris combined for about 80% of the team's overall statistical production and even though they made enough plays to win, Washington was able to take advantage of the situation and get back into the game.
Huskies statistical MVP: Kristi Kingma
One of many players who stepped up for Washington was Kristi Kingma, who scored 11 of her 16 points on 4-for-10 shooting in the second half after scoring only five points in the first half (her two made first half shots were half of the team's four).
In a game where the Huskies struggled to establish any sort of rhythm, Kingma was the player who best found ways to create offense with a combination of pull-up jumpers and spot up 3-point attempts, Kingma continued to show why some teams have chosen to double-team her. As the team imposed a full court press on the Highlanders, she also found two steals in the second half, one of which came on an inbounds play under the Highlanders' own basket which led to an easy layup.
The problem was that she was individually responsible for 55.16% of the team's overall production while shooting 6-for-17 for the game. And until Marjorie Heard stepped up, nobody else was able to find a way to score consistently from the field.
So although they fought hard to make a run down the stretch, that wasn't what won or lost the game - they just didn't put together a full 40 minutes.
"We got a few really good looks from three that we really needed just to seal that deal," said Jackson. "But that's not what won or lost the game. It was just about a half of basketball that showed we were and a half of basketball that showed who we weren't."