Cal State Fullerton guard Chante Miles wasn’t her team’s leading scorer Saturday afternoon.
She even finished the game three points below her season average, but in the critical moments, she showed up in a big way.
Despite taking a 10-point lead into halftime, the UCSB women’s basketball team found itself up just four with a little under eight minutes to go in the second half. From there, Miles took over.
Spinning in the lane, Miles converted a circus shot to cut the lead to two points at 46-44.
The following possession on the fast break with just one Gaucho in front of her, the junior passed the ball backwards between her legs to junior guard Tailer Butler, who drained a three to give the Titans their first lead since the opening minute of the game.
Butler led Fullerton offensively with 18 points on 6-12 shooting, including 4-9 from three-point range.
“I told our team, a lot of times after we scored, they would push the ball on the make,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “We didn’t sprint back and cut [Miles] off or we would gamble. She’s such a great ball handler. There were a couple times we gambled in the backcourt, and she made us pay by attacking and getting to the rim.”
After UCSB regained the lead, taking a slight 55-52 advantage, Miles converted a layup in transition and earned the foul, completing the three-point play to tie the game with 3:27 remaining.
Two minutes later, Miles drove into the lane and dished the ball to junior forward Kathleen Iwuoha for the layup, giving the Titans a three-point lead.
Finally, after Santa Barbara missed a jumper to bring the game within one with 24 seconds to go, Miles was fouled and hit the two clutch free throws to ice the game. She finished the afternoon with 11 points and eight assists.
“At the end of the day, it’s hard to guard a great player like that one-on-one,” Mitchell said. “That’s not what our defense revolves around, so it was probably the rotation in why she was able to attack and get a couple and-ones.”
After winning 40 consecutive games against the Titans, UCSB has now dropped the last two. Saturday’s win in the Thunderdome marks the first win in Santa Barbara for Fullerton since 1991 as the Titans improve to 7-11 overall and 3-2 in the Big West. The Gauchos drop to 6-12 overall and 1-4 in conference.
Once again, UCSB struggled with consistency. After holding the Titans to 23 first half points and 29.2 percent shooting from the field, the Gauchos allowed Fullerton 44 second half points.
“It’s disappointing because that first half was the style of play we’ve been waiting on the defensive side of things,” Mitchell said. “The game of basketball is two halves, and they made us pay for all of our mistakes in the second half.”
Five players finished in double-figures for the Titans, and the team hit an incredible 10 shots from behind the arc.
“When you’re making threes and everybody’s feeling it, you get in a certain type of rhythm,” senior guard Destini Mason said. “It gathers momentum for the team.”
UCSB also featured three players in double-figures with senior guard Melissa Zornig leading the Gaucho offense with 20 points. Mason added 18 points and a team-high eight rebounds while Onome Jemerigbe added a career-high 11 points.
The loss concludes a three-game homestand for Santa Barbara. Next week, the Gauchos go on road, facing UC Irvine and UC Davis.
A version of this article appeared on page 4 of January27, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.