Jan. 31, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Jessica Wilson scored 19 points and hauled in 12 rebounds to lead UC Santa Barbara to a 73-61 victory over visiting UC Riverside Thursday night in the Thunderdome. Wilson became the 22nd player to score 1,000 points for her career as the Gauchos snapped a five-game losing streak against the Highlanders.
Facing its toughest test of the conference season to this point, UCSB defeated the defending Big West champions for the first time since January 2, 2006 to improve to 13-6 overall and a perfect 8-0 in league play. The Gauchos, who have won nine consecutive games, now hold a two-game lead in the Big West standings heading into the second half of the conference season.
Riverside falls to 5-2 in league after losing two of its last three and now stands at 7-11 overall in 2007-08.
Wilson has been leading the charge during the Gauchos' nine game unbeaten streak and came up with another big performance against the team that has claimed the Big West's last two berths in the NCAA Tournament. The senior guard was 6-of-13 from the field, including 2-of-4 from the three-point line, to lead three Gauchos in double figures. She also finished with a team-high 12 rebounds, which is a season a high.
The Sacramento, Calif. native has now recorded a double-double in three of UCSB's last five games and has a total of 11 for her career. Wilson scored her 1,000th-career point on a breakaway layup with 2:38 remaining in the second half but came away limping on the play. She would return to score the game's final basket - stealing a pass from the Highlander's Chanel Foster and taking it all the way to the rim - to cap off the impressive victory for the Gauchos.
"Its great to reach 1,000 points, but I'm more impressed with the way we played and that we got the win," Wilson said. "I thought we played great defensively and kept Riverside off the offensive glass and that was really the key. I definitely couldn't have done it without my teammates."
The Highlanders scored the first six points of the game, but that would prove to be their biggest advantage all evening. The Gauchos responded with eight straight points of their own to take an 8-6 lead with 14:01 remaining following a three-point play by Wilson. Brittany Waddell knocked down a triple to give Riverside the advantage once more and the Highlanders led by as many as five points over the next 11 minutes.
Tainoisouti Lott's jumper with 2:41 left gave Riverside a 28-24 lead, but Lauren Pedersen knocked down a long two, Meagan Williams and Jordan Franey scored inside, and Kat Suderman sank two free-throws to cap off an 8-0 Gaucho run to close the half. UCSB went into the locker room leading 32-28.
Ashlee Brown hit back-to-back baskets and Suderman followed with a layup as Santa Barbara took a 38-29 lead 3:43 into the second half.
The Highlanders cut the deficit down to three (40-37) after two Seyram Gbewonyo free-throws with 14:25 left to play, but the Gauchos responded with a 14-8 spurt over the next 9:23 to take a 54-45 lead with 5:02 remaining.
After UCR was able to battle back to with four once again (54-50), UCSB responded, getting a pair of free-throws from Franey and a big triple from Wilson to push it back to nine at 59-50 with 3:25 left. Wilson's milestone layup 47 seconds later gave Santa Barbara an 11-point cushion and she gave the Gauchos their biggest lead of the game at the final horn to put the finishing touches on the win.
Suderman added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Gauchos, while Sha'Rae Gibbons chipped in with 10.
Santa Barbara outscored Riverside 41-33 in the second half and improved to 11-0 when leading at intermission this season.
Lott led all scorers with a career-best 27 points, finishing 11-for-17 from the floor. The junior forward also finished with 11 rebounds. Gbewonyo added 14 points for the Highlanders.
UCSB limited the visitors to just 36.5% shooting, while finishing above 40% for the eighth time in the last nine games at 42.6%. The Highlanders missed all four of their three-point attempts in second half after hitting 4-of-10 in the first.
Santa Barbara held a 43-33 rebounding advantage and had just 13 turnovers to 18 miscues for Riverside.
"I thought we gave a tremendous team effort defensively and really played excellent basketball for 40 minutes," head coach Mark French said. "Getting to this point and beating this team is a result of how hard we've been working in practice. We've been playing with a lot more consistency over the last few games and gotten the results we've been looking for."
UCSB hits the road once again next week to take on Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine seeking its first 10-0 start to conference play since the 2001-02 season. The Gauchos will square off with the Titans Thursday at 7:00 p.m., before facing the Anteaters Saturday at 2:00 p.m.