Camille Buckley was going to get her numbers for UC Irvine.
The senior guard that ranks second in the Big West in scoring and first in rebounding during conference play put up nearly identical numbers to the first time UCSB and Irvine played. She earned the double-double last night once again with 27 points on 8-14 shooting, including 11-13 from the free throw line, and 13 rebounds.
The problem for the Gauchos, however, lay in giving up 17 points to senior guard Vanessa Aguilar. She shot 6-12 from the field, including an incredible 5-9 from three-point range, despite averaging just 6.5 points on the season.
“It’s a challenge because you have Buckley inside, who averages a double-double, and then they have great shooters on the outside,” senior guard Melissa Zornig said. “So it’s definitely a challenge, but we have to get stops in order to win the game.”
Although the Gauchos outshot and outrebounded the Anteaters, UCSB fell to Irvine in the Thunderdome 77-73.
A close game throughout, UCSB held a four point lead with just under nine minutes remaining in the game. However, a 10-0 run by Irvine gave the Anteaters a lead they would never again concede. Six of Irvine’s 10 points in the game-changing run came from a pair of threes from Aguilar.
Unfortunately we let shooters get started. Definitely the difference in the game was Vanessa Aguilar,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “Once those (threes) went down, we had our hands full because it gave them new life.”
Down 73-68, Santa Barbara inbounded the ball to Jemerigbe, who dribbled right and found Zornig at the top of the key. She nailed the trey to bring the Gauchos within two with 41 seconds to go.
“Coach Mitch drew it up during the timeout,” Zornig said. “We had [senior guard Nicole Nesbit] coming off the flare and she’s a shooter, so they put a lot of attention on her. I set the flare screen and just popped out.”
However, Nesbit gambled on the inbounds pass, fouling senior guard Kelly Meggs and sending her to the free throw line, which expanded Irvine’s lead up to four.
Nesbit made up for her mistake quickly, knocking down a clutch jumper on the right wing with 29 seconds left. Nevertheless, Buckley made her shots from the charity stripe on the other end to clinch the victory for the Anteaters.
Irvine improves to 14-13 overall and 7-6 in the Big West while UCSB drops to 8-18 overall and 3-10 in conference. Since Riverside had a bye yesterday, the Gauchos keep a one-game lead for the eighth and final playoff spot.
While a loss shows up in the record for Santa Barbara, the team looked much improved from past performances. Nesbit led the team with 20 points while Zornig finished just shy of a double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds. UCSB’s other starters pitched in as well with Jemerigbe adding 13 points and four assists and junior center Clair Watkins also coming so close to tallying the double-double with nine points and 11 rebounds.
“We are a team that I don’t want it to be an individual effort,” Mitchell said. “We have some very talented players, but it was the mistakes that cost us the game.”
UCSB returns to play Saturday against UC Davis for its annual Play for Kay game. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. at the Thunderdome.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.