Pacific Union College should have known better.
Shelby Howard has been one the California Pacific Conferences most prolific scorers for more than a year, with some of her best performances coming against the Pioneers.
But PUC had trouble keeping tabs on the 2013 Cal Pac Freshman of the Year on Thursday night, even after she showed she had a hot hand.
Howard sank eight 3s en route to a game-high 34 points to lead the UC Merced womens basketball team to an 81-56 victory at Hostetler Court.
The sophomore guards 34 points were one shy of her school record and career high.
It was probably midway through the first half when I realized I was on, Howard said. My job in the offense is to shoot the ball, so I just kept doing it when it came my way.
Wed heard through the grape vine that they were going to focus on taking away the 3 from me, so I was a little surprised when I kept finding myself open. A lot of credit for that goes to my teammates. We executed our offense really well tonight and moved the ball really well until we found the open man.
It helped that Pacific Union (6-13, 1-4 Cal Pac) couldnt entirely focus on Howard.
The Bobcats (2-12, 1-2 Cal Pac) had one of their best shooting performances of the season, and came out firing from the opening tip. UCM hit seven of their 15 3s in the opening half and shot 46 percent from the field.
Alexis Wu (15 points, eight assists), Howard (10 first-half points) and Samantha Oshiro (eight points) led the way as the Bobcats opened the game with a 10-0 run.
Wu was particularly hot, scoring all 15 of points in the last 10 minutes of the first half to sen Merced into the break up 41-28.
Weve been very consistent defensively, UCM head coach Kevin Pham said. Pretty much every game we force more turnovers than the other team and put up more shots. If we shoot well, were very tough to beat.
I thought Alexis Wu carried us in the first half, and then Shelby obviously went off in the second half. There are good shooters and there are great shooters. I think she distinguished what kind she is tonight.
With her supporting cast vying for attention from the Pioneers defense, the stage was set for Howard to take over after the break.
She scored the first seven points of the second half and UCMs first 10 as it pushed its lead to 53-36 five minutes into the second half.
Howard was just getting started. She drained six second-half 3-pointers, including one from NBA range.
Having Alexis has been such a big help this year, Howard said. When we lost Courtney (Dana), we really needed a second shooter to step up. Shes done it. They cant cover both wings, and tonight it was just my night to take advantage of it.
Amber Washington (team-high 15 points) and London Robinson (14) both had nice nights for Pacific Union, but the Pioneers never got the score back under 15 the rest of the way.
Pham also got big minutes from his bench on Thursday, outscoring the Pioneers 26-6.
Pacific Union 96,
UC Merced 68
With senior guard George Idehen out of the lineup after being ejected from UC Merceds last game, the Bobcats took Hostetler Court with very little energy
A couple local products took full advantage.
Former Livingston High star Gurpreet Sangha (18 points) and Manteca High star Trevor Nogueira (game-high 31 points) carved up the UC Merced defense in a road rout for the Pioneers (3-17, 2-2 Cal Pac).
The Bobcats (2-17, 0-3 Cal Pac) got solid performances off of the bench from Daniel Pugh (11 points) and Griffin Alexander (10).
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or email@example.com.