SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – After battling back from 16 points down, the UCSB fell short in completing their comeback as it fell to Vanguard 69-66 in their season opening exhibition.
With 13 seconds left, UCSB took the ball up the floor after Nicole Ballestero made two free throws to put the Lions up by three. Onome Jemerigbe brought the ball to the top of the key and found Kristine Brance on the right wing whose last second shot was tipped on its release, ending Gauchos' tightly fought second-half.
Nicole Nesbit was instrumental in UCSB's comeback effort. After shooting 1-8 in the first half, Nesbit sunk five of her 11 looks in the second, finishing with a team-high 15 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
Following her on offense was Melissa Zornig who completed the game with 13 points, three assists, and a team-high 33 minutes played.
UCSB controlled the ball well against the Lions as they forced 18 turnovers while only giving up the ball seven times.
Vanguard stormed out to its largest lead at 47-31 with 14:51 remaining. Nesbit helped UCSB cut into the deficit when she found Brance for a deep three-pointer from the right side.
Nesbit went on to be a part of the Gauchos' next five points as she added two after a perfect trip to the free throw line, and later dished the ball to Jemerigbe who finished on a layup.
With the clock reading 8:36, the UCSB offense caught fire after Kendra Morrison and Melissa Zornig knocked down back-to-back three-pointers. The Gauchos went on to score on their next three possessions, as Zornig added another jump shot while Nesbit netted two baskets from midrange.
Nesbit was not finished scoring as she found five more points in the next two minutes of play, including the game tying layup.
At the 1:53 mark, Nesbit busted through two Lions players to snag the defensive board after Ballestero missed her shot from the left elbow. She took the ball to the other end of the floor herself and finished on a tough layup, tying the game at 65.
UCSB also had to make a comeback in the first half before halftime.
In the first half, the Gauchos trailed 25-13 with six minutes left. Mi'Chael Wright helped UCSB get back on the board with a pair of free throws, which triggered a 14-4 Gaucho run. During that time, UCSB used its defense to create opportunities on offense.
At the 4:57 mark, Nesbit swiped the ball after a mishandle by Taylor Belmont and found Destini Mason on the fast break for a layup. Fouled on the play, Mason completed the three-point play opportunity with a good shot from the charity stripe.
Mason finished with nine points, going 4-8 on the night.
Zornig capped off the run with a three-pointer from the left wing that put the Gauchos within two at 29-27 with 1:33 left in the first.
The Lions responded with four unanswered points to close the half, holding the 33-27 advantage.
The Gauchos will officially open their 2013-14 season by hosting Occidental College Sunday Nov. 10 at 2pm.
Season tickets are still available for women's basketball. Don't miss marquee home matchups in nonconference play when UCSB hosts Arizona, San Diego State, and Utah State among many others. Get your tickets today by visitng the Ticket Office at the Intercollegiate Athletics Building, calling 805-893-UCSB (8272), or by clicking here.