By the time the UC Merced women’s basketball team got its legs under it on Wednesday, it was too late.
Top-seeded Morningside gave the Bobcats a glimpse of where they hope to one day take the program, making its 13th straight NAIA Division II Tournament appearance.
That experience showed as the Mustangs raced out to a 26-point halftime lead. UC Merced played a competitive second half, but never got back into the 75-49 first-round loss in Sioux City, Iowa.
Turnovers and poor shooting proved the difference.
Morningside (33-1) forced 20 turnovers and scored 24 points as a direct result. The No. 8 Bobcats (14-12) had trouble keeping pace, shooting 17 of 55 in the game and just 6 of 26 beyond the arc.
A bigger, deeper Mustang squad dominated just about every major category, outscoring Merced 44-20 in the paint and 34-12 off of the bench behind Taylor Bahensky (game-high 19 points) and Jessica Tietz (16).
Brittany Martinez paced the Bobcats with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Courtney Danna and Shelby Howard had eight points apiece.
The Bobcats finished their third season of competition with a program-best 14 wins and the first California Pacific Conference title for any sport in school history.
Wednesday’s doubleheader between Cal State Stanislaus and Dominican was postponed due to rain and wet field conditions.
Bee Staff contributed to this report.