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#AztecWBB's Rally Falls Short vs. UCLA

Danesha Long tied her career-high with 13 points vs. UCLA on Sunday.
Danesha Long tied her career-high with 13 points vs. UCLA on Sunday.

Dec. 15, 2013

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SAN DIEGO - The San Diego State women's basketball team suffered its fourth nail-biting defeat of the season on Sunday, dropping a hard-fought 56-55 decision to UCLA at Viejas Arena.

The Aztecs rallied from a nine-point first-half deficit and had a chance to tie the game with five seconds left, trailing 56-54. However, junior Ahjalee Harvey's (Mountain View, Calif.) second free-throw attempt went awry after a successful make on her first shot, allowing the Bruins to escape.

With the loss, SDSU slips to 1-6 on the year, while UCLA moves to 4-5 overall.

The Aztecs were led by senior Danesha Long (Long Beach, Calif.), who tied her career-high with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a trio of three-pointers, while fellow classmate Cierra Warren added 12 points and eight rebounds. SDSU also received key contributions from Harvey, who notched seven points, six rebounds and a season-best six assists, and sophomore Deidra Smith (Aurora, Colo.), who tied Warren for team-high honors with eight boards of her own.

Despite draining a season-best eight three-pointers as a team and dominating the glass with a hefty 45-25 rebounding advantage, including an 18-7 spread on the offensive side, the Aztecs were plagued by a rash of ball-handling mistakes and inconsistent free-throw shooting, committing 23 turnovers while connecting on just 5-of-11 tries from the charity stripe. UCLA capitalized on SDSU's foibles, outscoring their hosts 21-12 on points off turnovers and maintained a 10-4 edge in fast-break points.

After the Aztecs scored the first two baskets of the game on a jumper by sophomore Deajanae Scurry (Los Angeles, Calif.) and a triple by Harvey, the Bruins uncorked a 13-0 blitz and eventually built a pair of nine-point leads, including a 21-12 advantage following a three-pointer by Nirra Fields with 8:58 remaining in the first half.

SDSU responded with a 14-7 surge of its own as Long recorded eight points during the run, while junior Chairese Culberson (Oakland, Calif.) sank one of her two treys on the afternoon, which trimmed the margin to 28-26 at the four-minute mark of the period. However, UCLA kept the Aztecs at bay, scoring the next six points on Luiana Livulo's jumper, a triple by Madeline Brooks and an Atonye Nyingifa free throw to regain an eight-point bulge at 34-26. SDSU promptly put a halt to the Bruin outburst when freshman Ariell Bostick (Oakland, Calif.) buried a three-pointer with 27 seconds to go, giving the contest its 34-29 score at intermission.

The Aztecs rode the momentum into the second half, fashioning a 9-2 run during the first four minutes as a layup by junior Khristina Hunter (Fairfield, Calif.) nudged the Scarlet and Black in front, 38-36. After UCLA countered with another trey by Fields and a Nyingifa basket, SDSU tallied seven straight points on Long's jumper and three-pointer, followed by junior Erimma Amarikwa's (Vacaville, Calif.) layup, to reclaim a 45-41 advantage with 12:25 remaining.

However, the Bruins seized control of the game with a 9-0 run over the ensuing six-plus minutes as a jumper by Rhema Gardner at the 6:13 mark provided the visitors a 50-45 lead they would not relinquish. Moments later, Hunter single-handedly trimmed the deficit to one on a jumper and two free throws, but the Aztecs could never regain the upper hand.

After two Livulo free throws gave UCLA a 56-51 cushion with 2:44 left, Harvey came up huge with a triple on SDSU's next foray up the court, narrowing the gap to 56-54. The two sides alternated misses on the next four possessions when Smith corralled a rebound off an errant three-point attempt by Thea Lemberger with 12 seconds to go.

Harvey was fouled by Fields bringing the ball into the frontcourt and susbsequently went to the line with five ticks on the clock. The Aztec guard nailed her first shot, but misfired on the second as Fields grabbed the loose ball. With time all but gone, SDSU was forced to foul twice in order to send the Bruins to charity stripe. Livulo promptly missed the front end of a one-and-one, but the Aztecs could not get off a desperation heave before the buzzer sounded and were saddled with their fourth loss of the year by four points or less.

UCLA had three players finish in double figures, including Fields, who tossed in a game-high 18 points, highlighted by four three-pointers; Nylingifa totaled 13 points and eight rebounds, while Lemberger contributed 11 points and a game-best eight assists in the victory.

SDSU resumes its homestand on Thursday, Dec. 19, when it tackles Miami (Ohio) at Viejas Arena, starting at 6 p.m. PT.