LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Last year's pairing between UC Santa Barbara and UNLV was decided by a buzzer-beater and Friday night's rematch was nearly as dramatic as the Lady Rebels edged out the Gauchos for the second consecutive season, 58-52, at the Thomas & Mack Center.
With the loss, UCSB falls to 0-1 on the early season while the Lady Rebels jump out to 1-0 start.
Early in the first half, Destini Mason's jumper tied the game at 4-4 and spurred a 15-6 run by the Gauchos, which was led by Nicole Nesbit's six points and Mason's five. Nesbit posted consecutive baskets and Mason sank a jumper to build the UCSB lead to 19-10 with eight minutes to go in the first half.
A media timeout ensued and seemingly cooled off the Gauchos' hot offense. The Lady Rebels came out of the break on fire, going on a 13-0 run. Back-to-back layups by Alana Cesarz tied the game at 19 apiece and a three-pointer from the top of the key by Kelli Thompson gave UNLV the lead. Rejane Verin was able to go 1-for-2 from the line to push the Lady Rebels ahead, 23-19, with 1:42 to go in the half.
UCSB's Melissa Zornig made sure the Gauchos had the last say in the opening stanza when she put up a layup with seven seconds left on the clock to cut the deficit to two points heading into the locker rooms.
The Gauchos continued to chip away at the Lady Rebels' lead in the second half, tying the game at three different points.
Mason – who led the team with a career-high 13 points – was able to cut the UNLV lead to one with a fastbreak layup and when Zornig was fouled on a 2-on-1 fastbreak a minute later, she tied the game as she went 1-for-2 from the line.
Thompson was able to quickly get UNLV back on top with a tipped in shot, but Mason's jumper with 7:02 on the clock tied the game once again at 42-42. On the next possession, Zornig fed a long pass to Mason, who dumped it in to give UCSB its first lead of the second half, 44-42.
The Lady Rebels then proceeded to go on an 8-2 run fueled by six points from Thompson. Zornig was able to down a three-pointer with 2:52 remaining to put the Gauchos back within one, but that's the closest they would come down the stretch.
Sweets Underwood drew a foul with 36 seconds to go and after her first shot rimmed in, the second bounced out. Nesbit stole the ball on the following possession and put away a fastbreak basket to put the Gauchos within two with 23.2 seconds to go, but an unforced turnover by UCSB and subsequent foul sent Thompson to the line. She put away both of her free shots as did Rmanii Haynes with four seconds to go to seal the 58-52 victory for UNLV.
In addition to Mason's career-high 13 points, two other Gauchos –Nesbit and Zornig – put up double-digit points. Nesbit, who led the Gauchos with 17 points in their exhibition against Vanguard on Monday, poured in 12 to go along with a team-leading five assists and five rebounds. Zornig finished with 11 points. Kirsten Tilleman, meanwhile, led the Gauchos with 12 of the team's 33 rebounds.
Thompson led all players with her 18 points while also posting 11 rebounds for UNLV. Cesarz added 12 points while Haynes led all players with seven assists.
"We made critical mistakes late in the game; we had an unforced turnover when we were trying to execute a pattern," head coach Carlene Mitchell said. "And we were unable to stop 45 (Thompson); we knew they were going to her and through her.
"We continue to have pretty good offensive execution early in the game, but with one sub it seems like we are disrupted. Hopefully as the year progresses, we will understand roles and we wont lose any intensity when we go to our bench."
The Gauchos will return home next Wednesday, Nov. 14 to host New Mexico State in a 7 p.m. game at the Thunderdome.
In 2012-13, UC Santa Barbara will begin a two-year 35th anniversary celebration of the Thunderdome. The #thunderdome35 celebration includes commemorative 2012-13 season tickets that feature some of the greatest players to ever compete on the Thunderdome court. The players will also be remembered during Gaucho men's and women's basketball home broadcasts as well as on the Gauchos in Thirty television show and online at UCSBgauchos.com.
Season tickets and single game tickets for women's basketball are available at the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, by calling 805-893-UCSB (8272) or online by clicking here.