The UCSB women’s basketball team rallied for its sixth straight victory Saturday afternoon, using a late comeback to defeat conference rival Cal Poly 68-62.
The Gauchos (10-8 overall, 4-1 in the Big West) faced a 12-point deficit in the second half, but used a 24-6 run to claw their way back and come away with their fourth-consecutive conference win. Junior guards Jessica Wilson and Chisa Ononiwu led UCSB with 19 and 17 points, respectively, while junior center Jenna Green had 15 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high six blocked shots. Santa Barbara will look to keep rolling with a four-game home stand that begins Thursday against Cal State Northridge.
UCSB took the advantage early in the first half; a three-pointer by freshman forward Jordan Franey put the Gauchos ahead by seven within the game’s first four minutes. The Mustangs (7-12 overall, 1-4 Big West) then went on an 11-2 run to claim their first lead of the contest at 15-13. The Gauchos countered with their own spurt, running off 11 unanswered points to take a nine-point lead at 24-15 – the largest lead Santa Barbara would enjoy all game. Cal Poly battled back to keep the game close, and UCSB took a narrow two-point lead into halftime, 33-31.
The Mustangs reclaimed the lead three minutes into the second half on a three-point basket from sophomore guard Lisa McBride to push the score to 40-38. With 14:52 remaining, Cal Poly went on a 12-0 run to put the Gauchos down 12 at 56-44. Santa Barbara pulled to within three after nine unanswered points and kept pushing in the game’s final 10 minutes. A pair of free throws by Franey with 5:52 remaining tied the game at 61-61, making it anybody’s game to win.
UCSB held a one-point lead as both team’s offenses stagnated until a jumper from Wilson put the Gauchos ahead 64-61 with 1:09 remaining. Free throw shooting was key; both Franey and Ononiwu made crucial trips to the line in the game’s final minute and made their shots to give Santa Barbara a 68-62 victory. It was not the most stellar offensive performance for the Gauchos of late, as they had been averaging 78.6 points per game in the five wins leading up to Saturday’s game, but it is a testament to the team’s growing maturity and toughness that it was able to grind it out down the stretch.
The Gauchos had four players reach double figures, led by Wilson who scored 19 points and added five rebounds and five assists. It was the second straight game Wilson has started at point guard, because of sophomore guard LaShay Fears’ knee injury. Also coming up big for Santa Barbara was Ononiwu, who scored 17 points on five-of-eight shooting and was perfect from the foul line in addition to grabbing six rebounds. Ononiwu has been an integral part to the Gaucho’s recent success, averaging 15.6 points per game in her last five outings.
Also figuring greatly into Santa Barbara’s win streak has been the team’s rebounding. After starting the season as a lackluster team under the basket, the Gauchos have stepped up their efforts on the glass and it has translated into wins. With a 44-36 rebounding edge over Cal Poly Saturday, UCSB has now out-rebounded its opponents in six straight games and is riding a six-game win streak. The Gauchos have been hitting the boards by committee, with six players registering at least four rebounds in Saturday’s win, with Green at the top with 11.
Conference play continues for the Gauchos this week when they begin a four-game home stand, playing against Cal State Northridge (8-10 overall, 4-1 Big West) on Thursday and Pacific (7-12 overall, 1-4 Big West) on Saturday. After losing its first conference match to UC Riverside (12-7 overall, 6-1 Big West) on Dec. 28, UCSB has won four consecutive games in Big West play.