Tonight, the worst case scenario happened for the UCSB women’s basketball team.
Going into the game at 2-8 in the Big West, the Gauchos well still ahead of UC Riverside in the conference standings and therefore holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot.
All they had to do was beat the Highlanders and that position, while not guaranteed, would have been easily in Santa Barbara’s grasp.
That situation completely changed tonight when UCSB fell to Riverside on the road 67-57, blowing a 10 point second half lead.
“Definitely, [after tonight, playoffs] cross your mind when you drop one like this, but we’re continuing to look forward,” senior guard Nicole Nesbit said. “We’ll think about this one until midnight and then look to what we have coming next.”
With the loss, the Gauchos fall to 7-17 overall and 2-9 in conference. They do remain a half game up on the Highlanders, which improved to 6-19 overall and 1-10 in the Big West.
While Santa Barbara takes the loss, the team actually owned the lead the majority of the game. After a 9-0 run late in the first half, UCSB extended its lead to 10 points at 37-27 with 13:23 remaining in the game.
From there, it was all Riverside. A three by the Highlander’s leading scorer and sophomore guard Brittany Crain capped off an 11-0 run for UCR, giving the team its first lead since midway through the first half.
The Gauchos couldn’t stop the bleeding as Riverside extended the run to 28-7, putting Santa Barbara in an 11-point hole with little time left on the clock.
“They got after us more on the defensive end. They started trying to deny Nic and [senior guard Melissa Zornig], so it made it tough for us to run patterns. It’s human nature when that happens to go into panic mode and we had the wrong people taking shots late in the shot clock,” Mitchell said. “We’re too late in the year. We have to understand who the offense needs to go to and through and then be able to get stops on the other end.”
Despite a solid first half, holding the Highlanders to 19 points, UCSB gave up 48 second half points as it was outscored 48-33.
On the game, UCSB didn’t shoot well, shooting 34.4 percent from the field. Riverside’s offense, on the other hand, resembled its attack from last Saturday when the team shot 53.8 percent from the field, defeating UC Irvine for its first conference victory. Tonight, the Highlanders shot an incredible 56 percent from the field in the second half.
“They were knocking down shots,” Nesbit said. “Everything that they were putting up it seemed like was going in and with that comes lots of energy and momentum. Once they started to get hot, everyone started to bring tons of energy.”
Crain led UCR offensively, recording a double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman guard Simone DeCoud also stepped up with 18 points. During Riverside’s 28-7 run in the second half, the two combined for 22 of the 28 points.
“You have Brittany Crain, who’s the leading scorer in the Big West, and we’re not matched up with her in transition defense or we had our five player guarding her,” Mitchell said. “That tells me there’s a lack of focus or in transition we didn’t communicate because she got two or three open threes with our five player guarding her.”
For UCSB, the seniors led the way once again. Both Nesbit and senior guard Melissa Zornig finished with 16 points while senior guard Destini Mason added 11 points.
“The kids read the internet. They understand our record,” Mitchell said. “With this team, it’s probably a little more pressure than they handle. We need to focus on what we need to do and hope it will lead to a couple wins in the final five games of the season.”
The Gauchos will need to regroup quickly for Saturday’s game at Cal State Fullerton. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. at Titan Gym.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.