SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Ashlee Burns' three-point play with 2.3 seconds left gave Cal Poly a stunning 61-58 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night, finishing off the Gauchos' 2011 with a bitter taste in their mouths.
UCSB has now dropped its past three games by a combined six points and lost its conference opener for just the second time in the last 17 seasons. The Gauchos fall to 5-7 overall and 0-1 in the Big West. Cal Poly snaps a seven-game losing skid and improves to 4-9, 1-0.
Cal Poly was in need of the last-second shot by Burns, who got her own share of redemption, after Emilie Johnson nailed a three-pointer with 7.2 seconds to play at the shot clock buzzer. Johnson received a pass from Kirsten Tilleman, who was falling out of bounds and had just retrieved Melissa Zornig's miss, to send it to Johnson. She drained it from in front of the Gauchos' bench to tie the game at 58-apiece.
Keeping with how the flow of the game went, however, a tie score was not to be unexpected. The teams had exchanged leads 14 times and had eight tie scores.
In an effort to avoid Cal Poly having enough time to get a good look, and with fouls to give, UCSB head coach Carlene Mitchell had her team foul the Mustangs twice to avoid them from running their offense.
Then, as the Mustangs lined up on the right side of the key, Burns broke free, caught the inbounds pass and was fouled, sending her to the line. It was somewhat redeeming for the senior, who had missed three straight three-pointers in one set moments earlier.
Poly held a 58-55 lead and had the ball with under two minutes left and were happy to wind the clock down. Burns missed a three, but Cal Poly got an offensive rebound only to have Burns miss one again. Yet, Poly got another offensive board. By the time Burns missed her third three-pointer – all of which came from near the left baseline – the Mustangs had burned off over 90 seconds of clock. Johnson's rebound, however, gave the Gauchos a last gasp.
Overall, though, UCSB was outscored 31-20 in the second half. The Gauchos took an eight-point lead into the break only to see Cal Poly storm back on an 11-2 run. From there, the back and forth game continued all the way to the final buzzer.
Looking to bounce back, UCSB will have a week off until its next game at Cal State Fullerton next Saturday. Tip-off is at 3 p.m. from Titan Gym.