Despite a career-high 13 points from senior guard Destini Mason, the UCSB women’s basketball team was unable to come away with a win on the road in the team’s season opener, losing 58-52 to UNLV in a game that came down to the final minute for the second straight year.
The loss marks the fourth consecutive year that the Gauchos have lost their season opener. While UCSB drops to 0-1, the Rebels open their season at 1-0.
“For the most part, there were a lot of positives, but we had critical mistakes late in the game,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “[Without] a couple [of those], we had a chance to win.”
Trailing 19-10 early, UNLV went on a 13-2 run to take a 23-21 lead into halftime. Sophomore forward Alana Cesarz led the run for the Rebels, scoring six of UNLV’s 13 final points of the half.
UCSB played catch-up the majority of the second half. However, with 6:40 remaining, Mason converted a crucial layup that not only gave her a new career high, but also gave the Gauchos a 44-42 lead, their first of the second half.
“On offense, she can attack and create her own shot and create for others,” Mitchell said. “She has that ability to score in double figures every night.”
The home team quickly responded as senior guard Kelli Thompson drained a three to regain the lead. UCSB junior guard Nicole Nesbit hit an elbow jumper to make the score 46-45 with under five minutes to go, but that would be the last lead the Gauchos would see. UNLV went on an 8-3 run, sparked by Thompson, enough to give the Rebels a small cushion.
“We had some miscommunication and during the breakdown, [Thompson] was able to get rebound put backs,” Mitchell said. “Our defense has to be better and we know that.”
Like last year’s game, it came down to the very end. Nesbit came up with a steal at half court and made the open layup with 24 seconds left, bringing the Gauchos within two at 52-54.
UCSB then had to foul. Thompson made both free throws to expand the lead back to a two possession game. On UCSB’s next possession, junior guard Rmanii Haynes stole the ball from Nesbit and was able to ice the game for UNLV from the line.
While the Gauchos held Thompson to just five points in the first half, the Rebels’ leader came alive in the second, finishing the game with a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“It was frustrating,” Mitchell said. “We knew the ball was going to go to her and through her.”
Rebounding, which was a huge focus for UCSB this week, was another issue as the Gauchos were outrebounded 43-33.
“The first half, we did a decent job,” Mitchell said. “In the second half, when he had breakdowns, we were scrambling and that leads to a lot of mistakes on the block out. You can’t win games being outrebounded by 10 on the road.”
In addition to Mason’s 13 points, Nesbit tallied 12 points, five assists and three steals. Junior guard Melissa Zornig also added 11 points.
UCSB will return home next Wednesday for its home opener against New Mexico State.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of November 13th, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.