February 3, 2011

Johnson's Career Night Leads Gauchos Past Tigers

Feb. 3, 2011

Box Score

STOCKTON, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team took Pacific's best punch but fired back with one of its own, only it came in the form of Emilie Johnson.

Playing in front of a lot of extended family from nearby Loomis, Calif., Johnson scored a career-high 31 points on 11 of 12 shooting to lead UCSB to a 69-62 win at the Spanos Center.

"You have to get into a rhythm and my teammates put me in a good spot," Johnson said. "It's fun. You've got to enjoy the game. Sometimes I get too caught up in making it happen but now it's just letting it come to you and getting into a rhythm."

UCSB improves to 12-9 overall and 6-3 in the Big West after its 12th win in 15 games while Pacific falls to 6-16, 3-6.

Despite Johnson's sharp-shooting the Gauchos had to rally to even make it a game, trailing by nine points early on. UCSB didn't even take its first lead until 14:11 remained on a layup from Mekia Valentine.

However, Johnson carried the team the rest of the way. She scored 14 points in an eight-minute span, taking UCSB from a 39-38 deficit into a 58-45 lead.

"It didn't feel like a run," head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "It felt like Em took the game over. What a game by her."

Johnson also pulled in eight rebounds to go with two assists, a steal and a blocked shot. She canned 4 of 5 from three-point range and led the Gauchos with 13 in the first half.

Mekia Valentine had her eighth double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds, grabbing double-digit boards for the seventh time in her past eight games. Nicole Nesbit added 11 points off the bench.

The Gauchos trailed 19-10 midway through the first half when Johnson was fouled attempting a three-pointer. She knocked down all three free throws and UCSB eventually tied things up at 23-apiece on Nesbit's double-clutch layup with 5:25 to go.

Valentine picked up her third foul with 4:09 remaining in the first half, but without her, the Gauchos were able to force Pacific's leading scorer, forward Danielle Peacon, into a poor shot, a double-dribble and a travel which helped them close the gap.

Melissa Zornig hit a three-pointer with about four seconds left in the half to knot things up at 30-30 heading into the break.

"I thought we gritted it out," Gottlieb said. "Sometimes you can get on a roll with a kid who's hot and there's not a better kid to roll with than Emilie."

UCSB finishes its Northern California road swing on Saturday with a 2 p.m. game at UC Davis. The game will be aired live online by clicking here and in Santa Barbara on AM 990 with the pregame show starting a half-hour before tip-off.

UCSB returns home on Thursday, Feb. 10 when it battles UC Irvine. For tickets, call (805) 893-UCSB (8272) or click here.

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