FLAGSTAFF, AZ - The thin air didn't seem to bother the UCSB women's basketball team.
If anything, the offense rose up to match the elevation.
Buoyed by 14 of 30 shooting from beyond the arc, UCSB held off the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks 96-93 Friday night at the Rolle Activity Center.
"A gut check on the road for our first game and to find a way to win," said head coach Bonnie Henrickson. "A lot of guys contributed, and that's who we're going to be all year, we've just got to be better defensively."
Sarah Bates led all Gaucho scorers with 25 points, one of four players in double-digits. Drew Edelman scored 24 while snaring a team-high seven rebounds, Aliceah Hernandez poured in 15 on five of seven shooting from downtown, and Sarah Porter added 13 with a squad-best seven assists.
The Gauchos 96 point effort is the most under Henrickson, topping a 93-78 win over Morehead State in the 2015-16 season, and is the first win in a season opener since 13-14. It was also the highest offensive output since a 105-60 win over CSUN during the 01-02 campaign.
UCSB came out firing in the first quarter, knocking down seven of their nine made field goals in the quarter from beyond the arc. Bates, Cece Quintino, Nina Radford, Hernandez and Makala Roper all rained treys, while Danae Miller scored on a drive and dished three of her four assists for the game. After the opening quarter the Gauchos led 27-21.
In the second, the hosts turned things around thanks to 50-percent shooting from the field and a 15-6 rebounding edge. The Gauchos did a better job of the glass in the second half, but were out-rebounded in the game by a 43-38 margin. Six different Lumberjacks scored in the quarter, with Kenna McDavis getting six of her 21 for the game, and snatching four of her game-best 13 rebounds. Kaleigh Paplow six of her 16 while grabbing four of her ten boards. At the half UCSB trailed 47-45.
"All of that offense doesn't matter if we don't get some stops and stop the bleeding from three, and get some tough rebounds in traffic," said Henrickson.
Things turned in the second half as the Gauchos made a concerted effort to get the ball to Edelman in the post. The redshirt senior scored 19 of her 24 points in the final 20 minutes, with nine coming in the third quarter. UCSB scored 14 of their 30 points for the quarter in the paint, while Miller, Bates, Porter, and Hernandez splashed triples. NAU was lead by nine points from Olivia Lucero, who finished the game-high scorer with 26. After three the Gauchos led 75-72.
Though the lead changed hands 11 times in the third quarter, UCSB never allowed the advantage to slip in the fourth. Hernandez made a critical three-pointer with 35 seconds remaining to stretch the lead to six, while Bates converted five of her 12 made free throws in the game down the stretch to ice the result.
Nine Gauchos played 10 or more minutes, with eight putting points on the board.
"We got gassed, I thought they got gassed with three players that played 30-some minutes, we were able to spread them out because of our depth," Henrickson said. "I thought down the stretch we got legs a little bit and created some fatigue."
UCSB returns home before heading back out on the road to face Santa Clara University on Tuesday, November 14th at 7PM. Listen to the live audio-only play-by-play broadcast on UCSBGauchos.com beginning at 6:45PM.
"Our young guys all came in, everyone contributes and does something," said Henrickson.
"We can't give up 93. It'll be great stuff for us on film; late game, great stuff to watch on the defensive end."