March 9, 2007
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Jenna Green scored a game-high 27 points and Chisa Ononiwu added 12 Friday afternoon to lead second-seeded UC Santa Barbara to a 57-52 victory over No. 5-seed Cal State Fullerton in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Women's Basketball Tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center. The Gauchos overcame a sluggish first half and a six-point halftime deficit to defeat the Titans and advance to Saturday's championship game.
With the win, Santa Barbara improves to 18-12 overall and will play in the title game for the 11th consecutive year Saturday at 1:00 p.m. The Gauchos will square off with No. 1-seeded UC Riverside - a team that has won the four previous matchups - after the Highlanders defeated No. 6-seeded Long Beach State, 59-53, in Friday's first semifinal.
The win was also the 28th in a row for the Gauchos over the Titans. Fullerton's last victory over Santa Barbara was in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament back in 1995, the last year UCSB did not capture the top seed and also the last time the Gauchos lost before the championship game.
Green's 27 points were two off of her career-high and came on an impressive 11-for-14 from the floor. She added seven rebounds, two steals, and a block.
"Our goal is always to get the ball to Jenna and we did a pretty good job of that," head coach Mark French said. "She has been unbelievably consistent for us this year and she came through big in the clutch."
Ononiwu scored seven of the Gauchos' first nine points and finished with 12 overall to round out the UCSB scoring leaders. She was 5-for-11 from the field and 2-of-6 from three-point territory to go with six rebounds and three assists. Jessica Wilson struggled from the floor, making just 2-of-11 shots, but had an excellent game otherwise, finishing with eight points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists, both of which were game-highs.
Charlee Underwood had 16 points and Toni Thomas had 14 for the Titans, who end their season at 16-16.
Underwood hit a triple with about six minutes to play to give Fullerton a 49-47 lead. But the Gauchos outscored the Titans, 8-0, over the next five minutes to take a 55-49 advantage with 1:25 left. Thomas made a 3-pointer to make it 55-52 with 1:08 to play but she and Andrea Adams missed game-tying shots in the final 15 seconds before Jessica Wilson hit two free throws with three seconds left.
Green scored nine unanswered points to turn a 39-33 deficit into a 42-39 UCSB lead midway through the second half. The teams traded baskets until Ononiwu put the Gauchos ahead to stay with a jumper at 4:30 that started the 8-0 run.
After Santa Barbara took an early 5-0 lead, Fullerton used a 10-4 run to take its first lead and was on too most of the first half. UCSB, who trailed by as many as 10 points in the opening period, shot just 33.3% (9-27) in the first half with 10 turnovers, while Cal State Fullerton hit 10-of-28 shots.
The Gauchos were much better in the second, hitting 13-of-25 shots (52%), to finish 42.3% for the game. UCSB held a 41-32 advantage on the glass and outscored Fullerton 14-8 in the paint. Santa Barbara recorded 17 assists on 22 made baskets.