It was a tale of two halves for the UCSB women’s basketball team last Friday night, when it came out on the losing end of its match against the University of Oregon.
The Gauchos (1-2 overall) spent the entire second half in an uphill battle after going into halftime facing an 18-point deficit, and they could never quite catch up. Oregon (1-0) was able to make several key momentum-killing plays and escaped the Thunderdome with an 85-77 win.
“As a team we really wanted to come out [in the second half] and play good defense,” junior guard Jessica Wilson said. “If we would have come out in the first half the way we did the second, who knows what would have happened.”
Oregon went up 6-0 in the first three minutes of the game before sophomore guard LaShay Fears hit a three pointer to put the Gauchos on the board. Santa Barbara stayed within striking distance for most of the first half thanks to the efforts of Fears, who had 11 points on the night and was 3-for-3 from outside the arc, and Wilson, who was effective at getting to the line. She went into halftime with 10 points, six of which came off of free throws. The final 6:22 of the half was where things got out of hand for the Gauchos, with Oregon outscoring them on a 16-4 run and taking a 46-28 lead into the break.
“We tried to be pretty calm about it [at halftime],” Head Coach Mark French said. “This is young team and you have to be careful about coming down too hard on them; I just challenged them to come out and play harder.”
The Gauchos came out much more energized in the second half, when a free throw by Wilson capped off an 8-2 run to bring the score to 48-36. A steal by Wilson that led to a layup on a two-on-one break brought the Gauchos to within 10 points with 14:40 remaining. The layup also got the crowd back into the game and forced the Ducks to take a timeout. Nearly a minute later, senior Oregon forward Carolyn Ganes hit a three-pointer straight on to push the lead back to 13.
“It’s hard because you work so hard and then they hit a three,” Wilson said. “But you have to keep going and we didn’t give up.”
After a three-pointer from Fears and a jumper by Wilson with 6:59 left in the game, the Gauchos found themselves within five points of their opponents. On the ensuing possession for Oregon, freshman guard Taylor Lilley nailed a three from the right wing to silence the crowd. When the Gauchos tried to answer, sophomore Oregon guard Tamika Nurse came up with a steal that led to a layup by Lilley on the break.
“One of the things they did really well was they got the ball to their shooters,” French said. “That five-point swing they had was huge; had we have gotten a stop there, it would have been interesting.”
Lilley was lights out for the rest of the second half, as it seemed every time the Gauchos were on the brink of a comeback she hit the big shot for the Ducks. Eventually Lilley finished with 27 points, going 5-for-8 from beyond the three-point line, giving Oregon the 85-77 win. Wilson was stellar for UCSB in a losing effort with 28 points on 9-for-16 shooting, eight rebounds and five assists.
UCSB does not return to action until Friday, when hosts Louisville at 7 p.m.