SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In what was initially tight matchup, UC Santa Barbara ran away with the 74-61 win over UC Riverside after firing off 12 unanswered points during the second half in the Thunderdome.
"We were tired of losing," UCSB Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. "Our team went out and played with purpose in both halves. We shot well when we needed to and our rebounding was outstanding."
Nicole Nesbit led UCSB with 20 points, scoring nine in four minutes during the Gauchos' big second half run.
As the teams jostled for the lead in the opening eight minutes, Nesbit sparked UCSB's offense by slashing her way through the lane for the layup and the foul. The senior completed the three-point play and put the Gauchos up 53-51 with 11:16 remaining.
Nesbit wrapped up the 12-0 scoring surge with a three-pointer, giving UCSB a 63-51 lead at the 7:27 mark.
Jasmine Ware followed Nesbit's lead and worked her way down to low post and finished on a layup on the next Gaucho possession. The sophomore finished with her first career double double after scoring 12 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.
Overall, UCSB pulled down a season-high 55 rebounds, nearly doubling the Highlanders' 30 boards. Kendra Morrison followed Ware with nine rebounds, while Destini Mason and Onome Jemerigbe both pulled down seven.
The Gauchos turned their 21 offensive boards into 23 points, compared to UC Riverside's eight from its second chance looks.
While the teams exchanged the lead eight times in the second half, UC Riverside managed to stay ahead for the majority in the opening 20 minutes.
Brittany Crain- one of the top scorers in the Big West- opened the game with two straight three pointers, which would be her only points of the half.
Though UCSB stayed competitive, the team wouldn't take the lead until 14 and a half minutes into the game when Mason knocked down a baseline jumper to make the score 26-24.
The shot was the last of a 6-0 run for Santa Barbara, which started with Jemerigbe knocking down her first three-pointer as a Gaucho.
To get the halftime lead, UCSB had to make a play on defense. Mason came up with a block near the free throw line, sending the ball the other way. Ware picked up the loose ball and immediately feed it up the left sideline to Melissa Zornig who found Mason for the finish and the 34-32 lead.
Zornig would again come up big plays in the second half when she hit two downtown looks in one minute to solidify the win.
As the Highlanders pulled within six points after a 6-0 run, Zornig's pair of threes regained UCSB's double-digit lead with 3:20 to play.
The Gauchos will return to the floor on Saturday when they take on Cal State Fullerton in the Thunderdome at 2pm. Tickets are available at the Ticketing Office, over the phone at 805.893.8272 (UCSB), and online here.