UCSB won their first game of the year 62-58 against Vanguard in thrilling fashion, although as an exhibition match, it won’t count in their record.
“I’m excited [with] the way the kids found a way to finish out the game,” Mitchell said. “We’re a new program and new system. November 11 is the date we’re going to come ready to play. You’ll see a different team.”
Five Gaucho turnovers in the first five minutes spurred a 7-0 run for the Lions and put UCSB down 11-4 early on.
“There were some pregame jitters and we need to control the unforced turnovers,” senior guard Emilie Johnson said. “With the forced turnovers, we knew [Vanguard] had their pressure zone, so we just need to be better about executing.”
Vanguard kept their lead until a run by the Gauchos ended the first half. A turnaround jumper off an inbounds pass and then an assist from Johnson to sophomore guard Melissa Zornig sparked a 7-1 run by the Gauchos going into halftime.
“We were playing team basketball,” Johnson said. “That’s how you win ballgames. It’s just playing as five players and that’s what we did.”
Down 28-27 after halftime, both teams began the second half on fire, but Vanguard sustained their lead. The Gauchos gradually cut the lead down until Johnson hit an elbow jumper on the fast break to put UCSB up 47-45 with 10 minutes remaining. The Gauchos never trailed for the rest of the game.
“Great players make plays and that’s why Emilie had USA on her chest a few weeks ago,” Mitchell said.
Santa Barbara’s largest lead of the game was eight, but the Lions weren’t going to hand the win to UCSB. With one minute left, Vanguard cut the lead to two on a three point play by junior guard Alison Drennan.
“I think we let up on defense a couple times,” Zornig said. “We kept fighting and defense ended up winning the game in the end.”
A solid defensive possession by the Gauchos resulted with Johnson on the free throw line. A 75 percent free throw shooter last year, Johnson hit 2-2 and iced the game for UCSB.
“We knew there were certain patterns we could get to get the ball to Emilie,” Mitchell said. “She’s clutch in those situations.”
Vanguard’s sophomore guard Trisha Goddard led all scorers with 19. For the Gauchos, Johnson led the attack with 15.
UCSB will play in its first official match on the road Nov. 11 against Seattle.