It may be early in the season, but the UCSB women’s basketball team could not afford another loss.
Going into last night’s game against UC Riverside, the Gauchos were 0-3 in the Big West and had lost eight of their last nine. With every win important in a competitive conference and the new playoff format, UCSB was desperate for a win in order to not fall too far behind in the standings.
Finally, Santa Barbara earned that much-needed victory, defeating UC Riverside 74-61.
“It’s definitely a good feeling and I think this is good because it will give us confidence going into the next game,” senior guard Melissa Zornig said.
In the middle of a three game homestand, UCSB now stands at 6-11 overall and 3-1 in conference. Riverside, on the other hand, remains the lone winless team in league at 0-5 and 4-14 overall.
After struggling to start league, averaging just 9.3 points in Santa Barbara’s first three league matches compared to 18.2 points per game during the preseason, senior guard Nicole Nesbit returned to her typical offensive force. She led Santa Barbara with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists with eight of her points coming during a game-deciding 12-0 run for the Gauchos in the second half.
Zornig also stepped up for UCSB, tallying 16 points, including eight straight points for the Gauchos down the stretch to seal the game.
However, unlike most games, the Gauchos received offensive production from more than just its seniors. Jasmine ware added 12 points and 11 rebounds, her first career double-double, while junior center Clair Watkins and freshman guard Onome Jemerigbe added eight and seven points, respectively.
“I’d say it’s about time,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said of Ware’s effort. “I understand the expectations when Jasmine came in here were the same as Clair; everyone thinks it’s supposed to be instant and sometimes it’s a process for kids. We always knew. Jas has great athletic ability and a knack for rebounding. Tonight she stepped up.”
UCSB outrebounded Riverside 55-30, including 21-6 on the offensive boards, which led to 23 second-chance points. The Gauchos also outscored the Highlanders 34-6 in the paint.
“In practice we constantly go over rebounding drills over and over, so I think just taking the drills that we do in practice and moving it to the game is what it’s about,” Ware said.
After missing a multitude of easy layups throughout the first half, Santa Barbara found its offensive stride in the second half. Down 51-50 with just over 17 minutes remaining, Nesbit completed a three point play to spark a 12-0 run for UCSB. Nesbit earned two three point plays during the spurt.
“Nic’s a gamer and she knows she’s going to get most team’s best defender on her most nights, but she has the ability to score in multiple ways and she found her legs tonight,” Mitchell said. “Her teammates have confidence in her as well as the coaching staff.”
Nevertheless, Riverside crept back into the game, going on a 6-0 run to decrease the margin to just five points. For the Gauchos, another senior responded, with Zornig dropping eight straight points to keep the Highlanders at bay and seal the victory.
For Riverside, Brittany Crain continued her offensive dominance in the Big West, scoring 19 points.
UCSB will finish its three game homestand tomorrow when it hosts Cal State Fullerton. Tip-off is set for 7.m.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.