Jan. 4, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A 9-0 second-half run enabled the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team to rally for its fifth consecutive victory Wednesday night as the Gauchos defeated Cal State Fullerton 68-54 in the Thunderdome.
UCSB has now evened its overall record for the first time this season at 6-6, also improving to 2-0 in Big West Conference play. The Titans - who have now lost 24 straight games at the hands of Santa Barbara since 1996 - fell to 2-10 and 0-2.
Fullerton appeared focused on ending its streak of futility against the Gauchos during a first half in which the visitors never trailed and opened an early 14-4 advantage courtesy of a nifty low-post move and bucket by senior center Amber Pruitt. The CSF lead was still at nine points when Pruitt scored again the 5:10 mark to make the scoreboard read 24-15, but a later 6-0 run capped by Karena Bonds' old-fashioned three-point play brought UCSB within 26-25 with just over three minutes until halftime. The home team misfired on numerous chances to tie or take the lead before intermission, and Pruitt's buzzer-beating lay-in gave her squad a 30-26 advantage heading into the locker rooms.
The Titans' momentum carried into the final period, when their advantage ballooned to 43-36 at the 13:04 mark thanks to another basket in the paint from Pruitt, making the 521 die-hard fans in the Thunderdome collectively nervous. However at that point the Gauchos' eased those fears with their aforementioned nine unanswered points, which included a pair of scores by sophomore post player Kat Suderman. Her second basket knotted the game at 43-43 with 10:47 to play, and Bonds gave UCSB its first lead of the night less than 30 seconds later with her fast-break layup.
Fullerton responded with a pair of free-throws on its ensuing possession, but would not enjoy another lead as the home team embarked on a 6-0 spurt ignited by a Jenna Green score courtesy of Jessica Wilson's assist. The visitors later pulled as close as 53-50 at the 5:29 mark before another Santa Barbara run of seven unanswered points put the contest all but out of reach. The final score was the Gauchos' largest cushion on the evening, and the end result was their 45th consecutive victory against a current member of the eight-team Big West.
UCSB senior forward Autumn Nichols broke out of her brief scoring slump to record a game-high 14 points, followed by 13 courtesy of Bonds and 11 from Green. Bonds also dished off five assists without a turnover, while Green and Wilson led all Gauchos with nine rebounds apiece. Santa Barbara was out-rebounded by a 44-42 margin, and struggled from the free-throw line where it converted just 16-of-31 attempts (51.6%).
Junior Charlee Underwood led a trio of Titans in double-figures with 13 points and just missed a double-double with nine boards. Pruitt contributed 12 points and Toni Thomas added 11. Fullerton shot 40.0% in the first half but finished with just a 32.8% field goal mark, and also hindered its effort with 22 turnovers.
The Gauchos will seek their first road victory of the 2005-06 campaign when they continue Big West Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 7 at Long Beach State (7-5 overall). Tip-off in the Walter Pyramid is slated for 2:00 p.m.