March 14, 2008
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Sha'Rae Gibbons scored 15 points to lead five players in double figures as No. 1 UC Santa Barbara routed Central Coast rival Cal Poly 77-57 in the Big West Conference Tournament Semifinals Friday afternoon at the Anaheim Convention Center.
With the win the Gauchos improve 22-7 overall and will now face either No. 2 UC Davis or third-seeded UC Riverside in the conference championship game Saturday at noon. The Aggies and Highlanders squared off in the second semifinal match-up of the day. Saturday's championship game will air live on Fox Sports Net Prime Ticket.
UCSB, which has won 18 of its last 19 games overall, will make its 12th consecutive appearance in the Big West Tournament final and 14th overall. The Gauchos won their last tournament tile in 2005, losing to Riverside in the title game each of the last two seasons.
Making her first-career start in the tournament, Gibbons finished 5-of-8 from the field, including 2-of-4 from the three-point line, scoring 13 of her team-high 15 in the decisive first half. She also finished with a game-high four assists.
"This tournament is a great experience," Gibbons said, "Its great to be able to help my team. I think I only played about five minutes in my first two trips (to Anaheim) so obviously this was a little different experience today."
Lauren Pedersen finished with 12 points in her Big West Tournament debut, finishing 2-of-4 from beyond the arc and 3-of-13 overall. The transfer from UCLA also tallied two rebounds, three assists, and four steals.
Chisa Ononiwu scored eight of her 11 points in the second half and racked up four boards.
Santa Barbara jumped out to a 12-4 lead after the first four minutes following a pair of free-throws from Wilson and her layup with 12:48 remaining gave the Gauchos a 19-8 advantage. Gibbons then found her way to the rim and scored to spark a 10-0 Santa Barbara run over the next three minutes as UCSB's lead swelled to 29-10 with nine minutes left in the half.
The Mustangs' Sparkle Anderson was assessed a technical foul with 5:01 to play after running through a screen on the offensive end. Gibbons then scored UCSB's next six points to give the Gauchos their biggest lead of the half at 45-22 with 3:48 left.
Santa Barbara led 49-26 following Pedersen's second three of the game, before the Mustangs' Rebecca Tratter scored inside and hit a midrange jumper in the paint to bring Cal Poly to within 19 at the break (49-30). The referees handed out another pair of technical fouls with 35.8 seconds left in the half after a UCSB miss, when Cal Poly's Kristen Santiago and Gibbons got tangled up on the floor.
The teams traded baskets for a while to start the second half, with Santa Barbara maintaining its sizeable advantage. Megan Williams drained a three to increase UCSB's lead to 63-36 with 11:30 left in the game.
Cal Poly outscored UCSB 14-2 during a six and a half minute stretch, but Ononiwu's three-point play stemmed the tide and put Santa Barbara ahead, 68-50 with 4:54 left in the game. The Mustangs would get no closer the rest of the way.
Tratter finished with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Cal Poly. Anderson and Santiago finished with nine points apiece.
The Gauchos were outstanding defensively throughout the game, limiting the Mustangs to just 40.7% shooting (22-of-54) from the floor and 10% shooting (1-of-10) from 3-point range. Santa Barbara finished 46.4% on its end and hit five of its 12 shots from beyond the arc, 42%. UCSB shot just under 47% (15-32) in the first half to take its 19-point halftime lead.
The Mustangs reached the semifinals after defeating UC Irvine 76-61 in the first round, and Pacific, 79-76 in a quarterfinal match-up yesterday. UCSB took both meetings with Cal Poly during the regular season.
"Its hard for a team to play three games in three days and I want to congratulate Cal Poly for their effort," head coach Mark French said. "But no matter how big your heart is, it's difficult to run up and down the court like that. They had to be fatigued."