November 23, 2007

Gauchos Give No. 3 Maryland All It Can Handle In 75-71 Defeat

Nov. 23, 2007

Box Score

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- What a difference a year makes.

After enduring a 61-point loss at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center in 2006-07, UC Santa Barbara proved this is a new year and they are a different team Friday night, battling the third-ranked Terrapins down to the wire in a 75-71 defeat in the Thunderdome. Marissa Coleman scored 30 points to lead undefeated Maryland to its seventh straight victory, while Chisa Ononiwu scored a season-high 20 points for the Gauchos.

UCSB (2-3) shot 41.7% and lost by just four to a Maryland squad that had won its six previous games by an average of 26.5 points per night. The Gauchos proved to be the biggest test the undefeated Terps' (7-0) had seen this season, battling back from a 13-point first half deficit to take the lead. Maryland had not won a game by less than 10 points entering Friday's contest, with its smallest margin of victory coming in a 76-66 win over No. 6 Oklahoma November 11.

The loss came despite double figure scoring efforts from Santa Barbara's three seniors. Ononiwu turned in another solid performance, finishing 6-for-14 from the floor and 4-of-8 from three-point range for a team-high 20 points. It was her second consecutive double digit scoring output after averaging just 5.7 points in the first three games of the season. The Houston, Tex. native also lead UCSB with eight rebounds.

Jenna Green scored a season-high 16 points in her third game since returning from a back injury, finishing 5-of-6 from the field and making all six of her free throws. Jessica Wilson added 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting to go with four assists.

18 of Coleman's game-high 30 points came at the free-throw line. The junior guard was 6-for-14 from the field. Kristi Toliver scored 19 points for the Terps on 5-of-10 shooting and finished with six assists. Laura Harper added 10 and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.

Maryland opened up a 16-3 lead in the first five minutes following a three-point play from Harper, but UCSB would not roll over and pulled within seven (20-13) after Ononiwu hit a long triple with 10:12 remaining in the first half. A pair of Coleman free-throws gave the visitors a 31-19 advantage with 4:36 on the clock, but the Gauchos closed the opening period on a 11-6 run and trailed only 37-30 at halftime.

Santa Barbara came roaring out of the locker room and used back-to-back layups from Wilson and Ononiwu, a put back by Meagan Williams, and a Lauren Pedersen three-pointer in the first 3:49 to tie the game at 39-39. UCSB took its first lead on a Wilson free-throw two minutes later and then went in front 42-39 on a jumper by Whitney Warren with 13:20 remaining in the game.

But the Terps scored the next eight points, five by Toliver, to regain the lead, 47-42. A Gaucho turnover led to an easy basket for Coleman in transition and Maryland extended its cushion to nine points (54-44) with 8:41 left before pulling ahead by 11 (61-50) after a pair of Toliver free-throws with 5:58 left on the clock.

UCSB outscored Maryland 21-12 over the next 5:33 to pull within two points after Sha'Rae Gibbons sank two at the line with 25 second left, but Tolliver made her foul shots the next time down to seal the 75-71 victory for the Terps.

"I'm very, very proud of the way our kids competed," head coach Mark French said. "I think we're all a little disappointed we didn't pull off the upset, but we'll certainly be more confident going forward knowing we're capable of competing with one of the best teams in the country."

Santa Barbara finished 25-of-60 for the game and made 7-of-12 three-point attempts, 31.8%, while Maryland made 18-of-47 attempts overall, 38.3% and hit just one of 10 threes. The Terps narrowly outrebounded the Gauchos, 37-35, but shot 29 more free throws in the game.

Both teams hauled in 14 offensive rebounds.

UCSB has never defeated a team ranked as high as No. 3. The Gauchos knocked off No. 5 Florida, 88-86 November 30, 1997 and defeated sixth-ranked Purdue, 83-82 in overtime December 17, 2002.

Maryland played without two-time All-American forward Crystal Langhorne, who missed her sixth game this season with a sprained ankle. Head coach Brenda Frese, who is expecting twins in March, did not make the trip on advice of her doctor.

The Gauchos will return to the road for the next three beginning with a stop at Santa Clara Thursday, November, 29 at 7:00 p.m.