The UCSB women’s basketball team overcame a slow start and a 10-point deficit late in the second half to win its fifth consecutive game Saturday against Cal State Fullerton.
Coming off three straight conference wins, the Gauchos (9-6 overall, 4-0 in the Big West) looked to remain undefeated in league action against Fullerton (2-12 overall, 1-2 Big West), who had just lost a hard-fought road game to Cal Poly two days earlier. Despite not having its first lead until there was 1:35 remaining in the second half, Santa Barbara was able make big shots when it needed to and came out on top, claiming a 59-58 overtime victory.
“Fullerton deserves a ton of credit,” Head Coach Mark French said. “They out-hustled and out-executed us, and they were the much better basketball team out there; they gave it everything they had for 45 minutes.”
Santa Barbara was flat out of the gate, only making one field goal in the game’s first six minutes to fall into a seven-point early deficit. UCSB continued its cold shooting and turnovers throughout the first half, and a three-pointer by junior forward Toni Thomas with 8:04 remaining gave the visitors their biggest lead of the half at nine points, 11-20. A layup from junior center Kat Suderman with 29 seconds to go in the period brought the Gauchos within six going into halftime.
“I think that [at the end of the game] we had that sense of urgency,” senior guard Jessica Wilson said. “We should have come out of the gate like that, instead of just the last few minutes of the game.”
Though they trailed at the half, the Gauchos were lucky to be as close as they were, despite committing 12 turnovers to Fullerton’s six. While UCSB was shooting a cold 31 percent for the half, Fullerton was not much warmer, shooting just 34.5 percent in the first frame.
“It’s disheartening to have these types of games right now,” French said. “Had we played that way against a team like Riverside, it would have definitely not been that close.”
The game continued its slow place throughout the second half, and with 5:37 remaining, junior Fullerton guard Daviyonne Weathersby gave the Titans their first double-digit lead of the contest, 46-36. The 10-point deficit seemed to wake up the Gauchos, as a three-pointer by junior guard Sha’Rae Gibbons triggered a 12-0 UCSB run that excited the crowd and gave the home team its first lead at 48-46 with 1:35 remaining. After Fullerton tied the game and then took the lead back on free throws from Thomas, Suderman hit the game-tying basket with 17 seconds left, taking the game into overtime.
“I think part of [what turned the game around] is that we out-lasted them a little bit down the stretch,” Suderman said. “They seemed pretty tired, and we should have had that energy at the start of the game.”
UCSB controlled the overtime period from start to finish, due in large part to the energy of Wilson, who scored six points and pulled down six rebounds in the short five-minute frame. A three-pointer by freshman Fullerton guard Lauren Chow with two seconds left made the final margin of victory a single point, and UCSB escaped with a 59-58 win.