A lackluster opener and a spectacular overtime win marked the regular season debut for the UCSB women’s basketball over the weekend.
The Gauchos (1-1) suffered a loss in its first game at the hands BYU on Friday night, 61-50, before earning an exciting 69-63 victory over USC in overtime Sunday afternoon. Santa Barbara was led by senior guard Jessica Wilson, who hit the game-tying shot that sent Sunday’s game into overtime. Junior guard Sha’Rae Gibbons, whose 19 points on 6-7 shooting sparked the Gauchos comeback effort over the Trojans.
“I just enjoyed [the win],” Gibbons said. “I’m just glad we won; I really wanted to beat this team and I’m really happy we did.”
Friday night, Santa Barbara played its first regular season game in front of the home crowd at the Thunderdome. The Gauchos were propelled by a 10-0 run early that put them ahead 17-12, but in what was the theme of the game, the Cougars answered UCSB’s run with a 12-0 run of their own, which put Santa Barbara down 24-17 with 3:53 remaining.
“[BYU] didn’t give us much,” Head Coach Mark French said. “They didn’t make a lot of mistakes; I think we’re still struggling [with a new offensive system].”
The Gauchos fell behind by 17 with 13:05 remaining after BYU senior center Lauren Riley-Varley scored two of her 14 points inside. Throughout the rest of the game, Santa Barbara would continue to put small runs together, but the Cougars always managed to come up with an answer, eventually taking away a 61-50 victory.
UCSB looked to put Friday night’s performance behind it as it faced perennial Pac-10 power USC on Sunday afternoon. The first half was fairly dismal for both teams on the offensive end, as the Trojans out-shot Santa Barbara 32.3-25 percent and led 26-20 going into halftime. Junior center Kat Suderman brought the Gauchos to within two at the 16:12 mark, 24-26, as the home team tried to build momentum.
USC used a 12-2 run to go ahead 13 with 4:40 remaining, but a three-pointer from Gibbons and a steal by sophomore forward Jordan Franey on the ensuing possession that resulted in a layup by Gibbons showed that UCSB was not going to go quietly. The Gauchos continued to chip away at the lead, and a jumper by Suderman with 15 seconds left put Santa Barbara down by just two, 51-53.
A huge steal by Gibbons gave the Gauchos the opportunity to win with a three or tie and force overtime: It turns out they did both. On the final possession, Gibbons got the ball to Wilson who nailed a shot from the wing, and chaos ensued as it looked as though it was a three-pointer, and fans were celebrating what seemed like a Gaucho victory 54-53. It was then recognized that Wilson was not behind the three-point line and the shot was a two-point field goal, forcing overtime.
Suderman and Gibbons continued to be the stars for UCSB in the overtime period, as Gibbons hit a big three to open the period and give Santa Barbara its first lead of the entire game. Suderman then hit two clutch jumpers and put the Gauchos ahead 60-53 with three minutes to go. The home team controlled the rest of the extra frame and came away with a hard-fought 69-63 victory.
“[Gibbons and Suderman] more than any other players in our program have had to hang in there and fight through injuries and adversity,” French said. “We’re all really proud of them for hanging in there and having a game like this.”