DAVIS, Calif. – Coming off its worst loss of the season, it was the two UC Santa Barbara seniors who made sure that the Gauchos rebounded.
And they did in a big way.
The win, coming just two days after a 20-point defeat at Pacific, assured the Gauchos of their 22nd consecutive season of at least a .500 or better conference record as UCSB improved to 14-15 overall and 8-8 in the Big West. The Gauchos will be the No. 6 seed in the Big West Tournament, which begins at home sites on Tuesday night. The Gauchos will play at UC Irvine, the No. 3 seed.
UCSB burst out to a 14-0 lead to open the game as Adrian buried three three-pointers during that stretch, including one to beat the shot clock from about 25 feet out. UCSB led by double digits for much of the first half, aside from on small stretch when UC Davis brought it to 21-15 on a Brianna Salvatore layup.
However, Johnson, playing in front of a large group of friends and family from nearby Loomis, canned a trey from the top of the arc and then three baskets by Destini Mason, Adrian and Melissa Zornig helped swell the lead to 30-17 with 4:06 remaining in the first half.
Santa Barbara tried to sustain its double digit advantage throughout the second half, but UC Davis turned its vaunted 2-3 zone into an attacking defense midway through the second stanza.
Kirsten Tilleman's layup with 8:57 remaining gave UCSB a 50-41 lead but it was UCSB's last basket until under two minutes remaining. The Aggies' defense disrupted the Gauchos' flow and UCD got as close as five points during UCSB's dry spell.
Johnson hit a jumper from 15-feet to put the lead to 52-45 with 1:51 left, but Davis wasn't done. A three-pointer from Samantha Meggison made it a four-point game with 1:12 left. But Adrian and Sweets Underwood knocked down four of their next five free throws and Johnson hit two in the closing seconds to secure the victory.
Tuesday's game will determine whether UCSB plays in Anaheim for the semi-finals of the Big West Tournament on Friday. The Gauchos are 0-2 vs. UC Irvine this season.
All Gaucho games are broadcast live on AM 990 in Santa Barbara and worldwide by clicking here. The pregame show starts a half-hour prior to tip-off.