Anaheim, Calif. – The L-Train chugged out of Santa Barbara ready to play. Unfortunately, the rest of her teammates almost forgot to hop on board to the first round of the Big West Tournament.
The UCSB women’s basketball team survived an early 7-3 Cal State Fullerton lead and a late 13-3 Titan run to hold on for a 73-62 win Wednesday evening at the Anaheim Convention Center. Sophomore center and Second Team All Big West selection Lindsay Taylor poured in a game-high 21 points on 8-11 shooting. Taylor also corralled seven rebounds and blocked four shots in a highly effective 22 minutes.
The story of the night, however, was the tenacity of CSUF, which would not allow the Gauchos to end its season without a fight after getting pummeled by 77 points in the two regular season meetings.
“I thought Fullerton just played great … they really played their hearts out,” said UCSB Head Coach Mark French, who earned his 400th career coaching victory with the ‘W.'”
Fullerton jumped ahead 7-3 to start the game, surprising the sluggish Gauchos. Senior guard Lindsay Sotero, playing her final game, hit the first of her six three-point buckets to get her team on the scoreboard. CSUF sophomore center Rochelle Ortega pumped in an inside shot with the shot clock winding down over UCSB senior forward and Big West Player of the Year Kayte Christensen. Fullerton junior forward Heather Hansen hit another jumper for a 7-3 lead at 17:29.
“I’m as proud of this team as I could possibly be,” CSUF Head Coach Barbara Ehardt said. “We knew it was a difficult task, but we knew it would not be impossible. I thought we executed our game plan pretty well.”
Sotero executed her part of Fullerton’s plan to near perfection, canning all 18 of her points from behind the three-point arc, including a sizzling 4-5 in the opening frame. Sotero hit 6-9 overall and was one successful three-pointer from tying the tourney record. Fullerton combined to go 9-22 on threes.
“Coming into this game, I was hoping they would lay off me. It was about time my shot came back,” Sotero said.
Freshman guard Mia Fisher seemed to be the only other Gaucho to help Taylor out, consistently connecting with Taylor on long passes over the comparatively smaller Titans. Fisher ended up with 13 points while dishing out five assists.
“My role tonight was to help through penetration,” Fisher said. “This whole year the guards have worked well with the post players. Lindsay and I tried to communicate well. She just put her hands up and made it easy for me. We’re working an alley-oop dunk next.”
UCSB dominated points in the paint, 28-16, yet CSUF held its own in every other statistical category. Santa Barbara was only 5-11 from charity stripe in the opening half for a dismal 45.5 percent, and 66.7 percent for the game. Fullerton drilled 82 percent of its threes. CSUF also outscored Santa Barbara 12-5 in second chance points.
Junior guard Jess Hansen chipped in 15 points for Santa Barbara while drilling 4-6 triples. Big West Freshman of the Year, forward Kristen Mann, who scored only one point in the first half, chipped in eight in the first seven minutes of the second.
“Being around [the Big West Tourney] for three years and playing with Stacey [Clinesmith] and Erin Buescher, I got to see how intense it is,” Taylor said. “But I don’t feel nervous, I’m anxious and everyone’s very excited about being here.”