February 16, 2006

Gauchos Drop Third Straight, Falling to UC Irvine 82-69

Feb. 16, 2006

Box Score

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team dropped its third straight game Thursday night, falling to UC Irvine 82-69 in the Thunderdome.

With the defeat, the Gauchos fell to 11-11 overall and 6-3 in Big West Conference play, its most league losses since 1994-95. UCSB fell two-and-a-half games behind league-leading Long Beach State, which visits Santa Barbara on Saturday. Meanwhile the Anteaters notched their fourth straight victory, improving to 8-16 and 6-6 in the Big West, avenging a 71-60 home loss to UCSB last month.

"Irvine got good shots, knocked them down and also got some key offensive rebounds. That helped their confidence," Gaucho head coach Mark French stated. "We just didn't defend well. We scored 69 points - that should be enough to win in the Thunderdome - but didn't take care of business on the other end of the floor."

UCI jumped out to a 14-11 lead with 11:12 to play in the first half before the home team rallied with four straight points, all coming after Anteater senior forward Kimberly Martin received a technical foul and was subsequently ejected at the 10:47 mark. The two longtime conference rivals then traded leads seven times, with UCSB holding a 37-35 cushion at the break after ending the period on an 8-3 run ignited by back-to-back Autumn Nichols layups.

However UCI closed the first half with a three-pointer, and subsequently opened the second by outscoring Santa Barbara 20-7 over the opening seven minutes. The visitors found themselves ahead 55-46 with 13:37 remaining, a lead that mushroomed to 65-52 when Annie Mai drove baseline for a layup at the 8:02 mark. The Gauchos responded with seven unanswered points capped by Jessica Wilson's basket, but back-to-back-to-back three-pointers - two by Melissa Jacob, pushed Irvine's advantage back to 74-59 with 4:42 left. Santa Barbara could not pull closer than nine points the rest of the way, and the jubilant Anteaters stormed the court after shooting a blistering 55.9% after halftime.

Sophomore forward Stephanie Duda tallied 19 points and a career-best 15 rebounds to lead UCI. Kelly Cochrane also enjoyed a double-double with 16 points and 10 boards, while two other Anteaters also reached the 10-point plateau. The visitors dished off 17 assists - led by Jacob's seven - versus only 10 turnovers, and won despite not shooting a single second-half free-throw until the final minute.

Wilson led a trio of Gauchos in double-figures with 19 points, followed by Karena Bonds and Kat Suderman with 15 and 13, respectively. UCSB was hamstrung by a woeful one-of-15 three-point shooting performance, and shot just 35.1% overall.

Saturday's showdown in the Thunderdome between Santa Barbara and Long Beach State will begin at 5:00 p.m., and be televised live by Fox Sports Net West 2.

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