February 16, 2012

Gauchos Use Tough Defense, Solid First Half to Ride to Win

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – A torrid first half for UC Santa Barbara was more than enough for the Gauchos to win their third in a row, knocking off UC Riverside, 53-43 at the Student Recreation Center.

UCSB jumped out to a 12-2 lead very early on and held UCR to just 15.4% shooting in the first 20 minutes to take a 24-12 lead into halftime. The 12 points allowed represented the fourth-lowest total by a UCSB team in a half in program history.

In the second half, though, UCR made it a little interesting. The Gauchos scored the first 11 points of the second half and then the Highlanders outscored UCSB 31-18 the rest of the way. Fortunately for UCSB, they had built a 33-12 lead and were able to withstand UCR's best punch.

UCSB's third straight win marks its longest of the season and improves the team's record to 11-13 overall and 5-6 in the Big West. UCR falls to 5-20, 3-10.

The win almost assuredly gives UCSB a spot in the eight-team Big West Tournament as the Gauchos swept the season series against both UCR and Cal State Fullerton, the two teams below the Gauchos in the standings.

Santa Barbara had four players score in double figures, led by Emilie Johnson who finished with 12 points to go with five rebounds and five assists. Destini Mason, the Moreno Valley native playing in front of more than 20 family and friends, finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two assists and played stifling defense against Tre'Shonti Nottingham. Sweets Underwood and Kelsey Adrian each finished with 10 points and Underwood grabbed six rebounds.

Kirsten Tilleman pulled down eight rebounds to go with four points while Nicole Nesbit had four points and five rebounds off the bench.

Nottingham finished with 16 points, but was just 3 of 13 from the field and went 9 of 10 from the free throw line.

UCSB will take its three-game winning streak to UC Irvine on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game can be heard live on AM 990 and online by clicking here with the pregame show starting a half-hour prior to tip-off.

The Gauchos return home on Feb. 23 to face Cal State Northridge in a 7 p.m. game. Tickets are available by calling 893-UCSB or online by clicking here.