After trailing for most of the game, the UCSB women’s basketball team was able to overcome Long Beach State’s defensive pressure on the way to a 74-70 home victory last night.
[media-credit id=20120 align=”alignleft” width=”159″][/media-credit]The Gauchos now stand at 17-10 overall (10-4 Big West) and have clinched home court advantage in the first round of the Big West Tournament, while the 49ers fall to 8-20 (6-8).
“I thought that was a great college basketball game tonight,” Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “Long Beach gave a great fight — they hit shots and never backed down. I couldn’t be more proud that that was our team out there in the second half.”
Long Beach took the lead with just under 12 minutes left in the first half, holding off UCSB until just four minutes remained in the game. After that, the Gauchos never gave up their lead.
Junior guards Emilie Johnson and Kelsey Adrian each scored 17 points for UCSB to lead all players, including four three-pointers apiece. Sophomore Sweets Underwood, who had been feeling under the weather all week, scored 15 points and added 10 rebounds.
The Gauchos started slowly, only avoiding a double-digit deficit at the half when freshman guard Nicole Nesbit hit a buzzer beating three-pointer.
“In the first half we did not play anywhere near the [level] of basketball we knew we were capable of playing,” Johnson said. “We responded and that’s how you win basketball games.”
Johnson and Adrian responded with threes to open the second half, closing the gap further. Senior forward Mekia Valentine was slowed down by the 49ers defense all game while battling the same illness as Underwood.
“We were prepared for [the pressure],” Johnson said. “It was just a mentality where we had to attack them back and we can’t be complacent.”
The Gauchos continued their strong second half play to the end, foiling Long Beach’s close-range hook shot with seconds remaining on the clock and only a two-point lead.
“It’s a really great feeling as a coach to be on that sideline through all the craziness of the game and look at each other and believe in each other and find a way to win,” Gottlieb said.
UCSB will next host Cal State Northridge on Saturday in the team’s final regular season home game. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Thunderdome.