It was another close game for the UCSB women’s basketball team, but this time, the result was different as the team held on for a 43-41 victory over New Mexico State last night in the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos improve to 1-1 overall while the Aggies drop to an equivalent 1-1 record.
“I’m not going to apologize for finding a way to win,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “They played their tails off for 40 minutes. At the end of the day, it’s early and I don’t know if we would’ve won this game last year, so that is definitely a positive.”
UCSB never trailed in its home opener, taking firm control of the game early. With the score at 11-9, junior guard Nicole Nesbit converted a three point play and sparked a 13-2 run to give the Gauchos a 24-11 lead. Santa Barbara finished the half up 26-14.
“They were playing us man [defense],” Mitchell said. “We were going inside out. It’s a lot easier executing on a man defense because you know who you want to get the shot for.” Offensively, Santa Barbara looked solid
in the first half, outshooting New Mexico State 43.5 to 21.4 percent. Nesbit was especially fiery in the first half, scoring 11 points, a mere three points less than the Aggies had in the half.
“I felt really good in the first half,” Nesbit said. “My teammates were setting great screens and we were just running our normal offense, so it felt good to knock down some shots.”
While the Gauchos controlled the first half, the second half told a different story as UCSB was outscored 27-17.
The Aggies crawled back in the game little by little, going on two small 5-0 and 4-0 runs. Meanwhile, Santa Barbara struggled on the offensive end, shooting just 28.6 percent from the field.
“They went zone,” Mitchell said. “They went to a three-two [zone], high and wide most of the time. We’ll have to work on it.”
With 1:41 remaining, senior forward Kelsie Rozendaal converted a three-point play, which brought the game to within three at 39-36.
Then, sophomore guard Danesia Williamson knocked down a three with five seconds left to bring New Mexico State within two for the first time since the 13:23 mark in the first half. With little time remaining, the Aggies fouled Nesbit, who missed the one and one, but came up with a defensive strip as time expired.
“Missing that last [free throw] … I was very frustrated,” Nesbit said. “I think I [then] took a little bit of a risk [on defense], but I was just worried about getting it back and not giving them a chance to get a shot off.”
As usual, the defense for the Gauchos caused their opponent problems, holding a team that averaged 78.5 points in its first two games including an exhibition to 41.
Santa Barbara also held New Mexico to just 1-14 from behind the arc, a much different result than last year’s 8-13 display by the Aggies when the two teams faced off. Meanwhile, UCSB shot 5-10 from downtown.
UCSB’s next game will be next Tuesday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico against Oregon State.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of November 15, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.