IRVINE, Calif. – After capitalizing on UC Irvine's early turnovers, UC Santa Barbara was unable to keep up with the Anteaters's second half scoring in the 77-60 loss.
Santa Barbara falls to 6-13 on the year and 1-5 in Big West play. Irvine remains undefeated at home (5-0) as its record improves to 10-10 and 3-3 in conference.
Nicole Nesbit and Melissa Zornig both led the team with 12 points, while Destini Mason added 10. Overall, the Gauchos shot an efficient 42.4 percent from the floor, which marks the first time since November that UCSB has shot 42 percent or better in back-to-back games.
Clair Watkins made her third career start for the Gauchos and finished with a career-high eight points and a team-high six rebounds.
Early in the game, Jasmine Ware came off the bench and went 3-3 for six points in what was a tightly contested opening nine minutes.
Neither team could establish a lead early on, as the first half featured four lead changes and eight tied scores. The Gauchos were the first to go up by two possessions at the 10:27 mark when Nesbit drained a 10-foot jumper, putting her team ahead 19-15.
The Anteaters regained the lead just two minutes later when Camille Buckley went 2-2 in a trip to the free throw line.
Buckley finished with a double-double after scoring 27 points and pulling down 15 rebounds, both game-highs. The forward also forced her way to 15 free throw attempts, and went on to make 13 of them.
Starting with 55 seconds left in the first half, the Anteaters fired off 16 unanswered points to pull ahead by 18 ahead of UCSB. Buckley and Lauren Spinazze both played pivotal roles in the run, as they each chipped in six points.
Watkins ended the streak at the 15:54 mark when she knocked down a jumper in the paint.
After that shot, UCSB tried to fight its way back into contention with a 7-1 run starting with 13:11 left in the game.
Zornig triggered the run with a three-pointer from the left wing. On the next Gaucho possession, the senior showed her passing skills as she found Melissa Maragnes near the free throw line for the open jump shot. Onome Jemerigbe would then connect on a long two-point look after Nesbit dished it to her on a drive through the lane.
UCSB will be back in game action this Saturday when they visit UC Davis at 2 p.m.