January 5, 2013

Long Beach State Edges Out Gauchos in Big West Battle, 52-45

LONG BEACH, Calif. - In a rematch of the 2012 Big West Championship game, Long Beach State was able to exact its revenge against UC Santa Barbara on Saturday evening in Walter Pyramid. The 49ers thwarted a second-half comeback by the Gauchos and took a 52-45 victory in their first meeting of the season.

With the loss, UCSB falls to 5-9 on the season, to an even 1-1 in Big West play and 3-3 on the road. Long Beach State improves to 9-5 overall and 2-0 in league games. The 49ers improve their home record to 8-2 and extend their current win streak to five straight.

After being limited to a season-low 14 points in the first half – which ties for the fifth lowest first half output in program lore – UCSB was able to come back from a 20-14 deficit with a 11-2 run that gave them their biggest lead of the game with 15:19 on the clock.

A seesaw battle would ensue as the game was tied eight times throughout the half with neither team holding an advantage of more than three points. With 1:41 to go, the Gauchos tied the game for the last time when Melissa Zornig secured the ball on the defensive half, passed it to Nicole Nesbit who drove up the left side of the court and made a lay-up while being fouled. She sank her free-throw to tie the game at 44-44.

Long Beach responded with a lay-up by Devin Hudson to regain the lead. The Gauchos then began to foul. The 49ers were able to sink 6-of-8 free throws down the stretch and UCSB was unable to find the bucket that would get them back in the game.

UCSB had commanded much of the early possession of the game, but the defensive slugfest remained scoreless until Sweets Underwood nailed a free-throw with 17:41 on the clock. Jackie Luna Castro's jumper just over a minute later pushed the Gaucho lead to 3-0, but UCSB would make just 1-of-7 attempts from the field in the opening eight minutes. 

Long Beach finally got on the board when Chantel Dooley made a free-throw, the first of 11 made by the 49ers in the half. Two more from Dooley at the charity stripe tied the game for the first time with 13:02 to go and an ensuing 9-3 run put Long Beach ahead for the first time with 5:47 on the clock.

By the time the clock expired on the first half, the 49ers had climbed out to a six-point lead behind seven points from Dooley. The Gauchos shot just 22.7% (5-of-22) in the half. Long Beach did not fair much better, shooting 26.7% from the field, but their 16 trips to the charity stripe eclipsed the Gauchos' five. 

Nicole Nesbit, Sweets Underwood and Angelei Aguirre fueled UCSB's second-half comeback. Nesbit scored nine of her team-leading 15 points in the final stanza; she also finished with a team-best five assists. Underwood – who finished the game with her fifth double-double of the season (12 points, 12 rebounds) – scored eight points in the second, as did Aguirre. 

The Gauchos shot an improved 43.3% (13-of-30) in the second half and out-rebounded the 49ers, 38-28, for the game. They struggled with foul trouble late in the game, however, as three seniors fouled out.

Long Beach State was led by Alex Sanchez's 12 points, nine of which were scored in the second half. Mary Ochiltree had a team-best five rebounds. 

UCSB will return home on Thursday, Jan. 10 to host Pacific at 7 p.m. and UC Davis on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. in the Thunderdome. To purchase tickets, call (805) 893-UCSB, visit the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus or click here to purchase online.

Both games will be broadcast live online at UCSBgauchos.com and Saturday's game will air on AM 1290 KZSB. A live video stream of all games can be found at BigWest.tv