The UCSB women’s basketball team rebounded from its loss to #14 Arizona State on Saturday with a victory over Loyola Marymount last night in Los Angeles.
The Gauchos (2-2 overall) earned their second win of the season and their first victory on the road, defeating the Lions (2-2 overall) 79-69. Santa Barbara was led by junior guard Sha’Rae Gibbons, who scored a game-high 19 points on 6-10 shooting and senior center Jenna Green, who scored 14 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in her second game back from injury.
Santa Barbara got off to a hot start as five quick points by Gibbons put the Gauchos on top 7-1 within the game’s first two minutes. Loyola got to within three as LMU sophomore guard Jessica Vargas hit a jumper on the break to bring the score to 13-10 with 12:20 remaining. From that point on, Santa Barbara took control of the half, and sophomore forward Ariana Gnekow put the Gauchos ahead by double figures with 6:56 remaining to bring the score to 27-17. An LMU steal with three seconds remaining led to a fast-break layup and brought the home team to within nine at halftime, 37-28. The difference in the half was Loyola’s poor free throw shooting, as the Lions got to the line 24 times to UCSB’s seven, but only made good on 12 of those shots, shooting a dismal 50 percent.
Loyola built momentum in the beginning of the second half, as it used a 10-2 run to take a 40-39 lead at the 16:12 mark. With 9:30 to go in the game, senior LMU guard Amanda DeCoud put the Gauchos in a double figure deficit, 59-47. On the ensuing possession, senior UCSB guard Chisa Ononiwu hit a three to trigger an 11-0 Santa Barbara run that tied the game at 58-58 with 6:22 left to go. Gibbons gave the Gauchos the lead back at 61-60 when she hit a three after a fast break layup for the Lions on the next play.
The teams traded leads for the next few minutes, but UCSB got a hold of the game when a steal by Green led to a layup for senior guard Jessica Wilson and gave the visitors a three-point advantage with 2:03 left. Clutch free throw shooting down the stretch allowed the Gauchos to pull away and claim their first road victory, 79-69. Santa Barbara had four players in double figures, led by Gibbons’ 19 and Ononiwu’s 17.
The win should be a confidence boost for the Gauchos, who will need all the confidence they can get for their next contest. UCSB will host the nation’s third-ranked team, Maryland, on Friday at the Thunderdome. The Terrapins are 5-0 on the season and have earned three of those wins over ranked teams. The game will start at 7 p.m.