March 5, 2011
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Over the course of her career, Mekia Valentine has built up quite the resume - a triple double, averaging a double-double, the school record for blocked shots in a season, the school record for field goal percentage.
But, on Saturday, Valentine might have had the best game of her life.
Leading a troupe of impressive performers, Valentine had 27 points, 20 rebounds and five blocked shots as UCSB crushed Cal Poly in the second half to secure a co-Big West regular season title in a 78-64 victory at Mott Gym.
UCSB earned its 14th Big West title and will head into next week's Big West Tournament next week as the No. 2 seed in the conference. The Mustangs (16-11 overall, 12-4 in the Big West) are the No. 1 seed based on tiebreakers. The Gauchos, winners of seven in a row, will face Pacific in the first round of the conference tournament on Tuesday at the Thunderdome at 7 p.m.
Valentine, who thrust herself into the mix for the Big West Player of the Year award with her performance, finished 11 of 13 from the field and nearly had the rare feat of having double-doubles in each half.
She finished the first half with 15 points and nine boards and had 12 points and 11 rebounds in the second half. No play better illustrated her performance than midway through the second half when she grabbed a defensive rebound and passed the ball as she was falling to the ground, to avoid a traveling call. Tardy getting to the offensive end, she skied for a rebound and in one motion, grabbed it, and laid the ball back in with her left hand. That gave UCSB a 59-48 lead with 9:01 to play.
When UCSB was faced with its most important 20 minutes of basketball this season - entering the second half of Saturday's game leading by a point - the Gauchos responded. Santa Barbara shot 57.1% from the field in the second half and held Cal Poly to a 40% clip.
Bothered by a hounding defense all game, Cal Poly's best scorer - Rachel Clancy, who entered the game second in the Big West in scoring at nearly 17 points per game - finished with just seven points on 3 of 13 shooting.
But Clancy wasn't the only one. Abby Bloetscher was just 5 of 11 and Jonae Ervin was 4 of 13.
Kelsey Adrian was given the assignment of stopping Clancy, and she held the senior to 0 first half points. But, the Gauchos' junior also finished with 17 points, knocking down three three-pointers. Emilie Johnson had 18 points and four assists.
The end product was nothing like how the game started. UCSB turned the ball over on its first four possessions and trailed 11-3 with 16:11 to go. Some defensive tweaks and an emphasis on ball control - UCSB finished with just 13 turnovers - allowed the Gauchos to get back into the game.
In the first half there were five tied scores and seven lead changes, perfectly representative of a back-and-forth game.
However, the Gauchos went on an 11-2 run, turning a four-point deficit into a 47-42 lead. They would never trail again.
UCSB hosts Pacific in the first round of the Big West Tournament on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome. Single-game tickets are $10 per person and $5 for UCSB students with ID.
The final two rounds of the women's ampm Big West Tournament will be held on Friday and Saturday at Anaheim's Honda Center. All-Session passes are still available for the low price of $64.
Fans can purchase single-game or All-Session passes by clicking here. This way fans can buy the tickets online and print at home to avoid all lines at the ticket window!
The game will be broadcast live on AM 990 KTMS and online at and online by clicking here with the pregame show starting at 6:30 p.m.