This time it didn’t take any Kayte Christensen heroics for the UCSB women’s basketball team to pick up a victory.
After scoring 70 points in her last two games – both Gaucho victories – the senior forward turned in a pedestrian performance, scoring 15 and grabbing nine rebounds in a 79-73 victory over Pac-10 member Oregon State. With the win, Santa Barbara ran its season-high winning streak to four games, while improving to 8-5 on the season.
Instead of relying on Christensen, UCSB relied on balanced scoring to defeat the Beavers, getting career highs from both sophomore forward Lisa Willett and freshman forward Hillary Jager, who finished with 15 and 12 points, respectively. The two career marks were just enough to offset last season’s Pac-10 Player of the Year senior guard Felicia Ragland, who finished with a Christensen-like 36 points.
“Those were huge, huge games. Hillary must be hanging around with Kayte, playing like that,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said on KEYT 1250 AM. “Willett really steadied us, grabbed some rebounds and hit some key threes for us. To have them step up like that, when the team really needed them gives them some confidence and earns the respect of their teammates.”
But Ragland, who kept the Beavers close throughout the game with her three-point shooting, missed a number of key shots late in the game to help UCSB hold on for the victory. After UCSB extended its lead to 69-59 with just over five minutes remaining in the second half, Ragland scored seven points during a 9-2 burst, cutting the Gauchos’ lead to 71-68. With the score at 72-70 and Santa Barbara desperately needing a hoop, freshman forward Kristen Mann converted a three-point play to give UCSB some breathing room at 75-70. However, the Gauchos were unable to put the game away until Ragland missed an open three from the corner with the score 76-72.
Trailing 3-2 early, the Gauchos jumped ahead on a layup from sophomore center Lindsay Taylor. The bucket would mark the start of a 12-0 run, which gave Santa Barbara an early 14-3 advantage. With Christensen struggling from the field, UCSB managed to increase its lead to 29-11, getting clutch baskets from unlikely sources, including Willett, who finished the half with eight points, and Jager, who finished the half with six.
Following a three-pointer from Gaucho junior guard Jess Hansen, OSU finally came to life, with Ragland leading the way. The All-American nailed three treys during an 18-5 OSU spurt, bringing the Beavers to within five at 34-29. Jager then scored a quick four points to put the Gauchos up 38-31 to end the half.
Both teams came out sharp in the second period, but UCSB was unable to pull away from the Beavers. Behind Ragland’s hot hand, OSU cut the Gauchos lead to just two, 46-44. The two teams then exchanged baskets, with Santa Barbara maintaining a four-point advantage.
UCSB finally gained some breathing room on a trey and jumper from Willett to go up 63-53. The Gauchos’ lead stood at 69-59 minutes later, setting up the frantic finish.