SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Led by Destini Mason's career-high 23 points, the Gauchos foiled Hampton's second-half comeback and clinched the 66-62 victory at the Thunderdome on Tuesday night.
UC Santa Barbara moves to 3-2 on the season after picking up its second consecutive win.
Entering the final minute of play, UCSB held a slim 61-60 lead. The Gauchos forced a pair of empty possessions for Hampton, which left the Lady Pirates no choice but to foul Nicole Nesbit who was given the ball off the inbounds pass with 19 seconds remaining.
"This team trusts her at the line," UCSB Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. "Late in the games, we will always look to her to close out games from the free throw line."
Nesbit, who finished with 11 points and three assists, sunk four straight free throws in the waning seconds of the game to protect the Gauchos' lead.
Mason sealed the victory at the free throw line after she was fouled when making her team-high eighth rebound with five seconds left. The senior sunk just one shot on her two tries, but that one point officially put UCSB up by four, and the set the game out of reach for the Lady Pirates.
The senior has now set her scoring career-high for the third time this season, doing most of the work with 15 points in the first half.
The Gauchos went into half time with a 34-24 lead after overcoming a seven-point deficit.
With 12:39 left in the first half, Hampton held the 16-9 advantage after scoring 10 unanswered points.
Melissa Maragnes broke the Lady Pirates' scoring streak and sparked a 14-2 Gaucho run after knocking down a turnaround baseline jumper.
Maragnes netted six points and grabbed a pair of rebounds after a playing a season-high 20 minutes.
By the 5:19 mark, UCSB garnered the 25-18 lead after Mason put up five points during the offensive surge, while Jasmine Ware followed her with four.
The sophomore finished the game by leading the bench with eight points and seven rebounds. The Gaucho reserves contributed 20 points overall.
After Melissa Zornig capped off the first half with a lay up, UCSB took a 34-24 lead going into the locker room.
The Lady Pirates' troubles continued in the opening moments of the second half, as Malia Tate-DeFreitas committed a turnover after just 20 seconds, which prompted Head Coach David Six to use a timeout.
Returning to the floor, Hampton fired off a 15-4 run, starting with Tate-DeFreitas hitting her first three-pointer of the contest.
After six minutes into the second, the Lady Pirates retook the lead for the first time since the early goings of the game at 41-39. They would eventually pull away by as many as four points, but UCSB did enough to make it a one-point game going into the final minute.
Down by two points with 6:28 left, Nesbit put the Gauchos back in front at 50-49 with a deep shot from the left wing.
From there, UCSB took on an attacking mentality on offense and sunk 12 of their 14 shots from the free throw line in the final six minutes.
Despite being outrebounded 46-30 and allowing Hampton 24 offensive rebounds, the Gauchos' 10-point lead proved enough to get the win.
UCSB will return to the floor on Saturday when it hosts San Diego State in a rematch of last season's WNIT game. Tickets are still available at the Ticketing Office, on the phone at 805-893-UCSB (8272), or online here.