There was good news and there was bad news for the UCSB women’s basketball team against Vanguard last night.
The bad news is the Gauchos lost 69-66 to the Lions, despite an incredible second-half comeback. The good news is that the defeat won’t count against Santa Barbara’s record.
“You never want to lose, you don’t want to lose at home and you don’t want to lose to a team that maybe the rest of the world thinks is a lower level (team),” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “But there were a lot of good things that happened tonight that we can take from this game.”
Coming back from 16 down, UCSB used its defense to even the score at 65 all with 1:46 remaining in the game.
However, two clutch-free throws down the stretch from senior guard Nicole Ballestero extended the Lions’ lead to three with 13 seconds to go. In need of a trey, UCSB’s top three-point threat, junior guard Kristine Brance, lined up a three, but it was blocked, giving Vanguard its first exhibition win in four tries this season.
“It was just a sense of urgency,” senior guard Destini Mason asid about Santa Barbara’s comeback. “We realized we were down by a lot and we started to get more stops and that’s what we talked about at halftime, that we have to play defense.”
Up until the final push, UCSB looked like a team in its first game of the season. Overall, the Gauchos allowed Vanguard to shoot 49.0 percent from the field, including 41.2 percent from three point range, numbers very uncharacteristic for a UCSB squad that has led the Big West in scoring defense the last two seasons.
Leading the Lions offensively were Ballestero and sophomore forward Samantha Doucette, who moved through UCSB’s defense with ease, scoring 24 and 16 points respectively.
Entering the second half with a 33-27 lead, the Lions began the second half the same way they started the game, making a quick push to put Santa Barbara in a hole. Jumping out to a 14-4 lead, Vanguard earned its largest lead of the game at 47-31 with just less than 15 minutes to go.
Taking 35 minutes to shake the rust, UCSB finally came alive. Staying true to what has won them ball games in the past, they picked up their defensive intensity which also fueled the team’s offense.
“We started to pick up our defense more in the second half, and I think that led to more transition,” senior guard Nicole Nesbit said. “We were able to get out and run and not have to play in the half court and run set offenses.”
Despite the loss, the Gauchos did see offensive contributions from everyone on the roster. With a constantly rotating lineup, all nine players tallied at least two points for Santa Barbara.
“We had great minutes from Christine Brance and Onome was wonderful,” Mitchell said. “She allows [Nesbit] to settle into that two spot and be free to shoot the basketball.”
Nesbit led the way with 15 points for the Gauchos, one of three players in double-figures. She also tallied seven rebounds and six assists, both team-highs for UCSB.
Santa Barbara will play its first official game of the season Sunday at home against Occidental.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of November 5th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Shaminder Dhindsa of the Daily Nexus.