Perfection continued Saturday afternoon, as the UCSB women’s basketball team remained undefeated in the Big West with a 74-72 overtime victory over Cal Poly.
The Gauchos (17-6 overall, 11-0 in the Big West) overcame a late surge from the Mustangs (9-15, 6-5 Big West) to win their fourth overtime contest this season and their 13th consecutive win overall. Santa Barbara was keyed by stellar performances from its backcourt, as senior guard Jessica Wilson chipped in 20 points and junior guard Sha’Rae Gibbons was just one assist shy of a triple double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
“It was a tough win,” Wilson said. “I’m just glad we stayed poised at the end because it was going back and forth and I’m glad we stayed calm because it was really intense.”
UCSB jumped out to an early lead, as junior guard Lauren Pedersen hit a jumper to make the score 9-2 in the game’s first three minutes. Cal Poly managed to stay within striking distance throughout the first half, coming to within three at the 8:38 mark on a jumper from freshman forward Kristina Santiago that made the score 20-17. Santa Barbara pushed the lead back to six as the half wound down, but the Mustangs continued to crash the offensive glass as Santiago scored a lay-up off of her own miss to make the score 34-30 going into halftime.
“I think our defense against their half court stuff was pretty good in the first half,” Head Coach Mark French said. “We let them hang around because they just killed us in transition and killed us on the offensive boards.”
The Gauchos took their first double-digit lead on a three-pointer from Wilson with 12:00 remaining, 49-39. With the 75-58 victory UCSB scored over the Mustangs in San Luis Obispo earlier this season still on their minds, Cal Poly proved it was not going to go quietly, going on a 14-1 run that not only got the road team back into the game, but gave it its first lead at 53-50 with 6:38 left.
“This is probably one of the most physical conference games I’ve played in this year,” Pedersen said. “You can tell they really wanted it bad.”
Five lead changes and four ties marked the remaining stretch of the second half. After Cal Poly tied the game at 62 with 2:37 remaining, Wilson put the Gauchos back on top with a pair of clutch free throws. Santa Barbara went up 65-62 after Pedersen made one of two at the line, and with 14 seconds left Mustang forward Megan Harrison hit a timely three to tie the game at 65. UCSB could not convert in the final 14 seconds and after an exciting finish the teams went into overtime.
The back-and-forth action continued in the overtime period, as neither team was able to pull ahead. With 1:13 left to go and Santa Barbara holding a 71-69 advantage, senior Cal Poly guard Sparkle Anderson hit a big three that gave the Mustangs a one-point lead. On the ensuing UCSB possession, Wilson came up with a clutch jumper that gave the Gauchos the lead back. Freshman forward Ashlee Brown made arguably the biggest play of the game when she hustled to the floor to come up with a steal with 19 seconds to go and Santa Barbara was able to hold on, earning a hard-fought 74-72 win.