Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” but the UCSB women’s basketball team secured its victory over Cal State Fullerton far before the final horn sounded Wednesday night at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The Gauchos (20-8) opened the second half with an 18-6 run, before cruising to a 79-50 win in the first round of the Big West Tournament. The 29-point margin of victory pales in comparison to the 79-24 whipping Santa Barbara gave to the Titans (1-27) earlier this season, but UCSB Head Coach Mark French was still satisfied with the Santa Barbara’s play.

“I was pleased with our defensive intensity,” French said. “We played with fire in our eyes and did an excellent job in the second half. It was nice to get a lead and rest a little bit so we can be fresh down the road.”

Santa Barbara used a 9-0 run to jump out to an early 17-8 lead, and appeared poised to run away from the lowly Titans. But Fullerton rallied, cutting UCSB’s lead to three on freshman guard Tamara Quinn’s second three pointer of the game. Quinn was the lone bright spot for the Titans, finishing with a team-high 14 points.

The Gauchos then displayed their shooting prowess, as senior forward Nicole Greathouse, sophomore point guard Debby Caine and freshman forward Lisa Willett nailed three consecutive bombs from behind the arc to extend their lead to 28-16. UCSB held a 12-point lead for the remainder of the first half and headed into the locker room leading 39-27 on the strength of junior guard Kristyn Miller’s lay-up with under one second left to play.
Playing in her first Big West Tournament, freshman center Lindsay Taylor led Santa Barbara with nine points at the half, en route to a game-high 19 points and 13 rebounds. Santa Barbara has grown accustomed to that type of production from Taylor, who attended last year’s tournament, albeit as a redshirt.

“Last year I traveled with the team, [but didn’t get to play],” Taylor said. “I’m just glad that this season I have the experience to help this team.”

UCSB exploded in the second period, blazing ahead to a 51-31 advantage. But Santa Barbara wasn’t done yet, jolting further ahead on a 16-4 run to take a 67-35 lead, effectively putting the game out of reach.

With the game in hand, senior point guard Sheila Shilati entered the game for UCSB, and the walk-on didn’t disappoint. Shilati brought her trademark sparkplug energy to the game, and wowed the crowd on with a fast break, making a no-look pass to Willett who then converted the layup.

The Gauchos also used their sizable advantage to get Greathouse her 1000th career point, repeatedly feeding her the ball in the post. Greathouse, who finished with 19 points, finally scored career points 1000 and 1001 on a runner in the lane. For her part, Greathouse said she wasn’t that impressed with her accomplishment.

“I felt a little unsuccessful doing it because [former Gaucho] Erin Buescher did it so much faster,” Greathouse said. “I wasn’t even that aware of it. But of course it’s nice, and I’m just glad that we got the win.”

UCSB then seemed to lose a little focus down the stretch, when Fullerton outscored Santa Barbara 10-4 to end the game.

The Gauchos will now face the winner of the Irvine-Boise State contest, and whomever UCSB plays, French knows a win will be difficult to come by.

“We need to play well defensively, and obviously we have a sizable challenge in front of us,” French said. “I don’t expect anything to come easy, so we’ll see what happens.”