It takes big plays to win a double overtime game.
For the UCSB women’s basketball team (8-9 overall, 3-3 Big West), which defeated top-ranked Cal State Northridge (10-9 overall, 5-2 in conference) 71-67 Saturday night, most of those clutch plays came from the two senior guards Emilie Johnson and Kelsey Adrian. Both finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.
“I challenged Emilie and Kelsey to lead us with the toughness,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “It was obvious in just their body language that they were going to set the tone and they refused to lose.”
First, it was a crucial rebound from Johnson toward the end of regulation. Northridge was forced to foul and Johnson, a 94 percent free throw shooter, drained them both to give her team a 50-47 lead.
“At the end of the game, there’s no better player to have on the line,” Mitchell said. “Free throws are very mental and she showed her mental toughness.”
Then, Matador freshman forward Jessica Duarte came to the rescue for her team, hitting a three with just seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.
“I saw [the shot] go in the air and I just was like, ‘please don’t go in, please don’t go in,’” Adrian, whose 17 points tied her career high, said. “[The shot] bounced around on the rim for a bit and went through. From there we had to regroup and focus on overtime.”
In overtime and in need of points, it was Adrian who knocked down a critical three-pointer for UCSB, tying the game at 58 apiece.
The Gauchos once again found themselves playing defense in the final possession. With the score tied, Johnson took a charge, sending the game to double overtime.
Adrian got UCSB on the board first in 2OT. Up 65-64 with the period almost over, she came up with a crucial steal on the defensive end. The Matadors’ coach thought she stepped on the end line and was called for a technical.
The foul call led to two made free throws by Johnson, who also converted on another four freebies to clinch the game. She shot 8-8 from the line overall.
As they usually do in close games, free throws played a vital role. Over the course of the game, Northridge spent a lot of time at the charity stripe, shooting 27-38, but couldn’t hit them when it mattered most.
Yet free throws kept Northridge in the game. UCSB held the Matadors to 31 percent shooting. Meanwhile, UCSB shot a solid 42.6 percent from the field, a much stronger performance than in its horrible loss to Long Beach State Thursday.
“We were attacking,” Adrian said. “We were back on our heels against Long Beach, but with Northridge, we really took it to them.”
After a 10-0 run late in the first half, the Gauchos entered the second half with a 28-24 lead. After halftime, UCSB’s lead grew to 11, but Northridge battled back, creating the dramatic finish.
“They really started attacking and we’re getting to the rim,” Adrian said. “They were drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. That got them back in the game.”
Northridge freshman guard Janae Sharpe led all scorers with 19 points, 11 of which came from the charity stripe. For UCSB, sophomore guard Nicole Nesbit also contributed 11 points.
“That’s [Sharpe’s] MO — to get to the rim and draw fouls,” Mitchell said. “We can learn from her because it doesn’t matter how you score. It’s about getting the two points.”
This week, UC Santa Barbara women’s basketball returns home, facing UC Davis