Gauchos Hold Off Cal State Northridge 66-61 in Big West Semifinals
March 10, 2006
ANAHEIM, Calif. - The streak continues for the top-seeded and defending Big West Conference Tournament champion UC Santa Barbara as the Gauchos got a game-high 24 points from sophomore Jenna Green and held off a late rally by Cal State Northridge to advance to Saturday's championship game with a 66-61 win over the Matadors on Friday afternoon at the Anaheim Convention Center.
UCSB, which has won the last nine consecutive Big West Tournament titles, improved to 16-12 overall and extended its winning streak in the conference tournament to 26 straight games. The Gauchos will meet the winner of the tournament's second semifinal between Long Beach State and UC Riverside on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.
Cal State Northridge finished its season at 10-20 overall.
Green finished the double-double with 12 rebounds and led two other teammates in double figures: LaShay Fears, who scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half - including the Gauchos' first nine of the period, and Jessica Wilson, who finished with 12 points, including 3-of-3 from the line down the stretch to hold off the Matadors.
Northridge was led by LaJoyce King's double-double of 18 points and 19 rebounds - including 12 on the offensive boards, and Jamie McCaa's 10 points - eight of those coming in the second half.
The Matadors battled back from a pair of large deficits, including trailing by as many as 11 points in the second half midway through the period. Northridge chipped away at the Gauchos' advantage, closing to within two points at 51-49 with 8:02 remaining on a Jamie McCaa three-pointer and taking its first lead of the game a minute and a half later on another three by McCaa.
Shantel Thomas' basket gave the Gauchos the lead once again, but Krisztina Fuleki answered with a three-pointer to give the Matadors a 55-53 advantage with 5:17 remaining.
However, that would be the last time Northridge would see the lead as UCSB's Whitney Warren drove the baseline for the lay-in and Fears hit a short jumper from the right elbow to put the Gauchos up by four and they never looked back.
Northridge got to within two points as King hit a pair of free throws and banked in another shot off the backboard with just over a minute left, but Wilson iced it for UC Santa Barbara as she drove the lane for a lay-up and hit the ensuing free throw after the foul to put the Gauchos up 64-59.
The Matadors battled back from an early 12-point deficit to trail the defending tournament champs by only two points at 30-28 at halftime as the Matadors closed out the final seven-plus minutes on a 17-7 run.
King, who finished the first half a rebound short of a double-double with 12 points and nine boards, was the spark for Northridge in that run, scoring nine of the 17 points and seven of the team's final nine points in the period to get her team close.
After trading baskets to open the period, UC Santa Barbara jumped out to a quick six-point advantage thanks to back-to-back three pointers by Wilson and Ana Onaindia to up 10-4.
The Matadors, who shot just under 30 percent from the floor in the half, got to within four points twice, but the Gauchos opened things up significantly, exploding for an 11-3 run to build their largest lead of the game to 12 points at 23-11 with just over seven minutes to play.
That's when Northridge responded, rallying back to within three thanks to a 13-4 run, capped by a King three-pointer to pull to within 27-24 with just under three minutes to go. After Green put it in strong off the glass for the Gauchos, the Matadors continued to edge closer as Megan Ching drove baseline to pull them to within three and King capped the scoring with her put back with under a minute to play to make it 30-28 at the break.
UC Santa Barbara shot just under 40 percent for the game, bolstered by 44 percent from the field in the second half en route to the win. Northridge shot just under 31 percent for the game.
The Gauchos held a 51-43 advantage on the boards, which also included 10 rebounds from Autumn Nichols.