Late-season nonconference games can be excellent ways for teams to prepare for conference tournaments and beyond, and potentially boost their portfolio with a big win. And while the Gauchos came up short — falling 70-51 to Oregon State Tuesday night — the experience could certainly pay dividends down the stretch.

“I’m really proud of us tonight, for a lot of different reasons,” Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We faced a really good team, and that was by design… At this stage of the year we need to be setting ourselves up for something bigger.”

Throughout the first half, UCSB proved it could compete with a solid team from the Pac-10. UCSB jumped out to a fast start and led by as many as seven points before heading into halftime with a manageable five-point deficit. It was in the second half, however, that the Beavers began to pull away.

After narrowing the gap to two points early with just under 19 minutes remaining, Santa Barbara allowed a 7-0 run to expand the gap to nine. Minutes later, a second Oregon State run — this time of nine points — all but sealed the deal. With 12:50 remaining, the Gauchos were down 51-35 and would never get the lead back to single digits again.

“Where we got in trouble was giving them 18 extra possessions,” Gottlieb said, referring to the 18 offensive rebounds Oregon State tallied in the game. Those key boards made up part of an impressive 38-26 advantage the Beavers had on the glass.

“A team like Oregon State is a little more able to bang with us,” Gottlieb said. But, on a positive note, she added, “We were
aggressive. We didn’t back down.”

Clearly not, as UCSB actually managed to set a school record with 12 blocked shots on the night. Seven players on Santa Barbara deflected at least one Beaver shot, but it was not enough to stop the Oregon State offense from dropping 70 points — far more than the mid-50s numbers the Gauchos are used to giving up.

While it was hardly a strong offensive performance on the part of Gottlieb’s squad, there were at least a few positives to take away. For one, seniors Lauren Pedersen and Jenna Green both put up double-digit points, with 11 and 12 respectively. Senior point guard Sha’Rae Gibbons had five assists to only one turnover. UCSB shot the ball fairly well throughout — going 42.9 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc.

But in the end, Oregon State’s major-conference talent got the better of the Gauchos. Three players scored at least 14 points, and Beaver guard Talisa Rhea notched a whopping 23 to go with three assists.

“Everyone that Oregon State has is pretty complete,” junior forward Christine Spencer said. “In the Big West we can kind of get away with taking away what people are good at.

“It made our defensive assignments a lot harder.”

With the loss, UCSB drops to 17-9 overall, while OSU moves to 16-10. Due to the quality of the opponent and the lack of conference repercussions, the mood in the Thunderdome postgame hardly felt like a 19-point loss had just occurred. In fact, Gottlieb expressed optimism and was generally pleased with her team’s performance.

“For the most part,” she said, “we were committed to what our goals were and we just fell a little bit short.”