It was a battle seen often in basketball: height versus quickness.

In Santa Barbara yesterday, height won.

With its power inside, San Diego State overcame UCSB 71-67 for the Aztecs’ first victory of the season.

At 6’4’’, senior center Cierra Warren dominated the small Gauchos squad, scoring 21 points and a game-high seven rebounds on 9-10 shooting from the field. One of eight players on the roster listed at six feet or taller, she led SDSU to a phenomenal 65.9 percent shooting performance from the field, including 70.6 percent in the second half.

Down four, Warren stepped outside and knocked down a three to bring her team within one at 45-44. She went on to score San Diego State’s next eight points to give the Aztecs a one point advantage just over halfway through the second half.

“[Warren] started out at North Carolina. We know she could’ve played anywhere in the country,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “I’ll have to go back and look at when she scored and how she scored. If we were in man, really the only body type that could match up against her was Big Mel.”

Despite the Aztec shooting percentage, the Gauchos’ three point shooting kept them in the game. Ranked last in the Big West in threes with just 16 on the year entering the game, UCSB made over half its season total in one game, shooting nine of 19 from behind the arc for 47.4 percent.

“We were getting wide open looks, but I think more towards the second half, we were taking shots too quickly and weren’t attacking as much as we should have,” senior guard Nicole Nesbit said. “The mentality we should have had from the beginning was to attack.”

The supremacy by both teams in their respective styles led to a game that would be decided in the final seconds.

Down six with a minute and a half remaining, senior guard Melissa Zornig hit a three to bring the game within one possession. A steal on the inbounds and a converted layup from Nesbit completed a five-point swing, making a game that seemed over anybody’s game.

“We were just trying to pressure it,” Zornig said. “We wanted to get the ball back. We wanted to press them and see what we could do with it.”

In its full court press, UCSB forced SDSU to travel and was given the opportunity to take the lead with 48.5 seconds left in the game, but could not create a good shot on the offensive end. On the miss, Santa Barbara was forced to foul and freshman guard Ariell Bostick made one of two free throws to put her team up three.

Out of the timeout, Nesbit, who had been hot from distance at 5-7 from behind the arc at the time, received an open look from the left wing, but the three bounced off the back of the iron.

“We drew it up and knew we needed a look at a three,” Nesbit said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the first shot, so Mel came in. She took a look at it and then I did get a good look. We did get the look we wanted. It just didn’t go in.”

While the Aztecs improve to 1-4, the Gauchos drop to 3-3.

“With the competitor I am, it’s disappointing to know that’s their first win of the season. That’s frustrating when you’re at home,” Mitchell said. “We had our opportunities. We went into halftime up six and we turned stagnant against that two-three zone (in the second half) and it cost us.”

Nevertheless, UCSB shot 52.0 percent on the game and had three players in double-figures. Nesbit finished with a game-high and career-high 22 points while senior guard Destini Mason and Zornig tallied with 20 and 14 points, respectively.

“We had three players in double figures, but again, it’s our guards,” Mitchell said. “We have to find someone else to give us a scoring punch so [the seniors] don’t have to carry the burden.”

The Gauchos will have to rebound quickly from the loss as they travel to Pepperdine Tuesday.


This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.