It was the same matchup from last year’s Big West Championship game, but the result was different.
The UCSB women’s basketball team fell to Long Beach State 45-52 on the road, dropping to 5-9 overall and 1-1 in the Big West. The 49ers won their fifth consecutive game, improving to 9-5 overall and 2-0 in conference.
“This was definitely a tough loss,” junior guard Nicole Nesbit said. “I think after the [championship] match last year, this was a revenge game for them.”
Fouling was a big issue for the Gauchos, which committed 27 fouls. As a result, Long Beach State shot 33 free throws, making 25.
“It definitely was a physical game, but a lot of times as a team we foul when we didn’t necessarily have to foul,” senior forward Sweets Underwood said. “We need to get low and get in our defensive stance.”
Free throws propelled the 49ers to an early first-half lead, with 11 of their 20 first half points coming from the charity stripe. Combined with UCSB struggling to score, Long Beach State took a 20-14 lead into the locker rooms.
“We knew they were going to be changing defenses,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “They play man, they’ll press or play a one-three-one zone and I thought we came out very tentative. We knew what they were going to do, but we didn’t have the attack mentality early.”
To open up the second half, UCSB caught fire and went on an 11-2 run, giving the Gauchos a three-point lead with 15:19 remaining.
“In the locker room, Coach Mitch lit a fire under all of us,” Underwood said. “She wasn’t very happy with the output in the first half.”
Senior guard Angelei Aguirre led the comeback for UCSB, scoring all eight of her points in the second half. However, with approximately four minutes remaining, she fouled out, giving the 49ers momentum.
“We challenged [Aguirre]; she’s got to be willing to accept the responsibility of being a senior,” Mitchell said. “She’s a physical player and has the ability to score in a variety of ways and she was able to do that in the second half.”
Both teams traded baskets for the majority of the second half, but with just less than two minutes remaining and the score tied at 44, Long Beach State went on an 8-1 run, aided by UCSB turnovers.
“We made a lot of critical mistakes at the end of the game,” Underwood said. “Long Beach is a good team and you can’t make critical mistakes in the end of the game and expect to win, so it’s on us.”
The Gauchos turned the ball over six more times than the 49ers, two coming in the final 30 seconds.
Nesbit scored a game-high 15 points. while Underwood contributed a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
UCSB will play its first conference home game of the season this Thursday when the team takes on University of the Pacific.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of January 7th, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.