Junior guard Emilie Johnson had a near perfect night on the road against Pacific last night, dropping 31 points on 11-12 field goals in a 69-62 win over the Tigers.
The victory propels UCSB to 12-9 overall (6-3 Big West) while Pacific falls to 6-16 (3-6) on the season. Johnson’s 31-point effort was a career-high, as she made four three-point shots to go along with eight rebounds.
“We knew Pacific was coming off a big win,” Johnson said. “We weren’t expecting an easy game and we knew we had to come out at the top of our game. They came out strong but we know how good we can be if we play together.”
After trailing for most of the game, UCSB gained its first lead of the night with under 15 minutes to go in the game. Pacific trailed by nine with two minutes to go and closed the gap to four with a minute left before UCSB killed the rally.
Freshman guard Nicole Nesbit attributed the ability to close the gap and maintain the lead to the shooters and in large part to Johnson.
“We were struggling offensively in the beginning making too many turnovers,” Nesbit said. “We knew if we trusted our offense and our shooters, it would work. We just needed to focus, like [Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb] always tells us.”
Senior forward Mekia Valentine recorded her second consecutive double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds on 5-7 shooting. Nesbit provided a spark off the bench for the Gauchos with 11 points and five assists.
“Coming off the bench, we need to bring a lot of energy,” Nesbit said. “Tonight was very quiet in the first half, and we had to manufacture our own energy. It was rough at first, but we got it going later on.”
As a team, the Gauchos shot over 44 percent from the floor, with their three leading scorers accounting for 78 percent of the offense.
“It was one of those games where I got into the flow and I gave my best effort out there tonight,” Johnson said. “My teammates gave me good passes to be able to get good shots off. It was a team effort and I give credit to my teammates and coaches.”
Pacific’s freshman forward Danielle Peacon, the team’s leading scorer this season, was held in check with only eight points and four rebounds. Freshman guard Gena Johnson led the Tigers with 16 points off the bench.
UCSB continued to take care of the ball, committing only 14 turnovers while forcing 18. Nesbit attributed the change to a collective team effort to be more efficient with the ball.
“One practice, coach made us run for every turnover we made, and that has stuck with us, “ Nesbit said. “As a team, we came together knowing that we are better than that. Keeping possession of the ball makes a huge difference in the outcome of the game.”
Next for the Gauchos is UC Davis on Saturday. Davis defeated UCSB 63-55 on Jan. 6, a loss the players have not forgotten.
“We are confident and we want to beat them,” Nesbit said. “We are angry about our loss at home and we want to upset them on their court.”
“We know what to expect from them in their buzz defense and Princeton style offense,” Johnson added. “Every road conference game is a battle and we are ready for it.”
Tip-off against Davis is set for Saturday at 2 p.m.