The UCSB women’s basketball team features three incredible seniors, all of which have the capability to change the outcome of a game.
Last night was Destini Mason’s night.
The senior guard crushed her previous career-high of 18 points, finishing with 23 points on 8-16 shooting, including 2-3 from three point range, and eight rebounds.
The effort would be enough for the Gauchos to overcome Hampton 66-62.
“As a coach, you’re always proud when you watch players mature and grow into themselves and their confidence and their skills,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “[Mason has] worked extremely hard on her game at both ends of the floor and she’s playing really calm and like a senior.”
While Santa Barbara has become known for its fast-paced offense this year, the Gauchos proved their defense is still how they win games.
After going down 15-18 early in the first half, Mason swatted away a shot from senior forward Alyssa Bennett, which led to a three point basket on the other end and tied the game. A turnover on the other end led to a trey by senior guard Melissa Zornig and a steal and layup in transition from sophomore guard Jasmine Ware completed an 8-0 run for UCSB.
The increased defensive intensity started by Mason led to a 17-3 run and the Gauchos eventually took a 34-24 lead into the locker room.
“I think it was our energy on defense that really helped get our offense going,” Ware said. “I think we started talking because we were a little flat in the beginning.”
However, UCSB would give up its lead as Hampton used offensive rebounds to spark a 15-4 run and tie the game at 39 all. In just the first five minutes of the second half, the Lady Pirates grabbed eight offensive boards, which led to nine second chance points.
On the game, Santa Barbara was outrebounded 46-30, giving up 24 offensive rebounds.
“They are amazing athletes and we knew their second, third and fourth opportunity a lot of times is their best shot,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t do a good job of blocking out. No excuses. We are very lucky to win giving up 24 offensive rebounds.”
The rest of the half, the two teams traded baskets and for the fourth time this year, the Gauchos played in a game went down to the wire.
Down two with just over a minute remaining, freshman guard Onome Jemerigbe poked the ball from one of Hampton’s leaders, senior guard Nicole Hamilton, and fed Mason on the fast break, who not only converted the layup, but earned the foul. With the made free throw, Mason gave UCSB a 61-60 lead.
“It was a really hard foul. I was a little hurt, but my teammates were like, ‘it doesn’t really matter. You’re going to have to knock down this free throw,’” Mason said. “I just had to get up and focus on the free throw.”
Solid defense from the Gauchos on the next possession forced an air ball from Hamilton and the Gauchos were able to finish the Lady Pirates off from the line, going 5-6 down the stretch from the charity stripe.
UCSB improves to 3-2 on the year while Hampton falls to an identical 3-2 mark.
Anchoring the team offensively for the Lady Pirates was Bennett, who finished the night with 23 points, 21 coming in the second half, and 16 rebounds. She was one of three players in double-figures for Hampton.
“It was a really nice win,” Mitchell said. “They’re a very talented team. They probably have a pro player in Alyssa Bennett and even though she ended up with 23 points, we made her work extremely hard for those 23 points, so it’s a great win.”
UCSB returns to play this Saturday at home against San Diego State.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.