March 2, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team assured itself of a top-two seed in next week's Big West Conference Tournament courtesy of a 76-49 victory Thursday over Pacific in the Thunderdome.
With their most convincing win of the 2005-06 season, the Gauchos improved to 14-12 overall and 9-4 in Big West play, tied with Long Beach State atop the league standings with just one conference game remaining. Meanwhile the Tigers fell to 6-20 and 3-10 in the Big West following their eighth straight defeat at the hands of UCSB.
Tied 21-21 with 6:30 remaining in the first half, Santa Barbara embarked on an quick 8-0 spurt spanning the next minute and a half capped by sophomore center Jenna Green's old-fashioned three-point play. UOP pulled back within 31-26 on Whitney Price's three-pointer at the 3:15 mark, but the home team then closed the period by scoring eight of the final 10 points, highlighted by back-to-back trifectas from Erin O'Bryan and Ana Onaindia. UCSB led 39-28 at intermission.
Pacific could not trim its deficit to single-digits at any point in the second half, and was held scoreless for more than a five-minute stretch that put the outcome well beyond a doubt. Leading 56-41 with 10:46 remaining, the Gauchos mounted a 14-0 run that included baskets by four different players and a pair of free-throws by two others. Freshman point guard LaShay Fears' driving layup at the 5:17 mark gave Santa Barbara its biggest cushion, 70-41.
For just the fourth time this season, a quartet of Gauchos scored in double-figures, led by Green, Karena Bonds and Autumn Nichols with 14 points apiece. Green also hauled down a team-best eight rebounds, while Onaindia joined the aforementioned group in double-figures with 10 points. UCSB matched its season-high total of 16 steals with Jessica Wilson and Whitney Warren making three swipes apiece.
Sophomore guard Kelsey Lavender paced the Tigers with 14 points, followed by Renee Roberts with 10. The visitors committed 26 turnovers - 16 before halftime - and shot just 30.6%, although Santa Barbara did not fare much better at 36.5%.
The Gauchos can clinch at least a share of their unprecedented 11th-straight Big West title as they close regular season play on Saturday, March 4 by hosting Cal State Northridge in the Thunderdome at 2:00 p.m. Gaucho seniors Karena Bonds and Autumn Nichols will be honored in a special ceremony at 1:45 p.m. prior to tip-off against the Matadors.