It wasn’t pretty, but the UCSB women’s basketball team was happy to take the 47-35 victory against Long Beach State Saturday afternoon in its final regular season home game, guaranteeing a win for what may be the last game in the Thunderdome for its two seniors, Emilie Johnson and Kelsey Adrian.
“I’m excited that we found a way to win for our seniors because this will be a memory they have for the rest of their lives,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “It’s a win and we take it. An ugly win is a lot better than a pretty loss at this point in the year.”
UC Santa Barbara has now won five out of its last six games and took sixth place in the Big West standings from Long Beach. The Gauchos improve to 7-7 in the Big West and 13-14 overall, while the 49ers drop to 6-8 in conference and 11-16 overall.
“It was nice to come out with a win. It meant a lot,” Johnson said. “We’re excited to keep the momentum going. We want to get two more next week and get a home [playoff] game.”
The match saw very sloppy play. The Gauchos committed a season-high 27 turnovers.
“A lot of our [turnovers] were unforced, and it was distributed throughout the team,” Mitchell said. “So that tells you there was never a flow in this game or our players [weren’t] comfortable and I’m not sure why.”
On the other hand, UCSB dominated the boards, outrebounding Long Beach 46-17, and outscored the 49ers 11-0 in second chance points. Junior forward Sweets Underwood and junior center Kirsten Tilleman each pulled down nine rebounds.
After going down 2-0 to start the game, UCSB never trailed again. Johnson and Adrian both got on the board quickly and sparked a 9-0 run. Another 8-0 run, combined with the Gauchos’ outstanding defense, gave them a 23-11 halftime lead. The 11 points were the fourth-least ever allowed in a first half by UCSB.
“That’s my mindset and the kids have bought into that,” Mitchell said. “At this time in the year, that’s what I expect, so that’s no surprise to me.”
The Gauchos sustained their lead in the second half, not allowing the 49ers to get any closer than nine points.
“We’re learning to play together as a team and we’re clicking better,” Adrian said. “We have a better sense of where [each] person wants the ball.”
Johnson led the Gauchos with 13 points, shooting 6-11. Adrian finished with six points and was 2-5 from downtown. Sophomore guard Nicole Nesbit tallied 10 points and five assists, scoring in double figures for the first time in five games.
The Gauchos will play their final games of the season on the road as they make a road trip north to face Pacific and UC Davis.