When there’s a Willett, there’s a way.

Senior forward Lisa Willett was perfect from the field in the second half and helped the UCSB women’s basketball team to its third straight victory as the Gauchos defeated UC Irvine 77-59 Thursday night at the Bren Event Center.

The Gauchos looked nothing like the regular-season Big West champions during the first 20 minutes of the game. Santa Barbara played sloppy basketball throughout the first half, committing 11 turnovers as Irvine wouldn’t go away. The Anteaters shot a blistering five of 10 from three-point range during the first half, and responded to every Santa Barbara attempt to run away with the game.

Junior forward Kristen Mann, a native of nearby Santa Ana, kept the Gauchos in the lead with 9 points and 4 rebounds in the first half. Mann and Willett pushed Santa Barbara out to a 30-19 lead with five minutes to go in the half, but with the home crowd behind them the Anteaters would not go away. Irvine made a run and closed the Gauchos’ lead to five at 36-31 as the first half came to a close. Irvine was out-rebounded and out-shot during the first half, but team hustle and consistent three-point shooting kept the game close.

UCSB hasn’t lost two Big West Conference road games since the 1994-95 season, but Irvine went into halftime with all of the momentum on its side, and Santa Barbara was in danger of an upset.

Then Willett came to the rescue.

The four-year letterman scored 11 second-half points and helped silence the Irvine crowd as Santa Barbara began to put any Anteater hopes of an upset to rest. Behind the strength of Willett’s hot shooting, the Gauchos went on a 23-9 run midway through the second half and extended their lead to 73-52. Irvine had no answer for Willett, and Santa Barbara cruised to its sixth straight win over the Anteaters.

Senior center Lindsay Taylor came off the bench to lead the Gauchos with 16 points and four rebounds. Mann also had a solid game, finishing with 11 points and six rebounds, and Santa Barbara finished shooting 55.8 percent from the field.

Santa Barbara travels to Long Beach State on Saturday night at 7:30 to finish off the regular season. The Gauchos began the conference season with a 78-67 win over the 49ers at the Thunderdome on Jan. 3 as Santa Barbara extended its win streak against Long Beach State to 24 games. Five Gauchos scored in double digits during the contest, including a team-high 15 points from Taylor. Mann recorded her third double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Long Beach State is battling Cal Poly and Fullerton for the fourth seed in the Big West Conference Tournament. Their hopes of locking up the fourth seed took a blow Thursday night with a 64-56 loss to Cal Poly.

The Gauchos will get a week to prepare for the Big West tournament from March 10 to 13. Santa Barbara secured the top seed in the tournament two weeks ago and will receive a bye for the first two rounds due to the new format put in place this season.