PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico – UC Santa Barbara's Hardwood Tournament of Hope opening game against Oregon State came down to the wire, but the Gauchos came up short in a 49-46 loss on Tuesday afternoon at the Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center.
Junior Nicole Nesbit – who led the Gauchos with a season-high 18 points – put up a buzzer-beating three-point shot, but the shot bounced off the rim, securing the victory for the Beavers.
Fueled by Nesbit's 11 points, the Gauchos climbed out to a 21-18 lead by halftime. UCSB scored first and never trailed during the opening 20 minutes, distancing itself by as many as 10 points twice. This marks the second consecutive contest that UCSB has limited its opponent to fewer than 20 points in the first stanza and that Nesbit has scored 11 points in the first.
The Beavers were able to limit UCSB to just 25.9% (7-of-27) shooting from the field, but for their part, the Gaucho defense held Oregon State to just 31.6% (6-of-19) shooting from the field.
While the first half was a defensive slugfest, the second half saw more dynamic offensive play from both squads.
Oregon State's Alyssa Martin scored on a layup to open second half scoring and was fouled on the play. She sunk her free throw to tie the game. Patricia Bright's layup on the following possession gave the Beavers' their first lead of the game.
Oregon State was able to hold the lead, but the Gauchos kept nipping at its heels, closing the gap to one point on multiple occasions. Midway through the half, however, the Beavers went on a 7-0 run that gave them their biggest lead of the game at 43-35.
The Gauchos caught fire and went on an 11-4 run, which was punctuated by a three-pointer from Nesbit, to put them within one with 1:19 to go.
Bright was fouled with 59 seconds to go and went to the line and sunk both of her free throws to push the Beavers ahead by three. With 17 seconds to go, the Gauchos fouled Martin, but she missed her free throw and Destini Mason scooped up the rebound.
Oregon State ran down the clock with multiple fouls as the Gauchos attempted to inbound the ball, finally UCSB got the ball in the hands of Nesbit for the final shot of the game, but it did not fall in favor of the Gauchos.
The second half saw improved shooting from both teams as the Gauchos shot 46.2% from the field and the Beavers saw 48% shooting.
Oregon State benefited tremendously from its height and inside game as it scored 24 of its points from inside the paint while the Gauchos scored just four. The Beavers also went to the line on 16 occasions and scored 11 of their points on free throws versus just four by the Gauchos.
Nesbit was the only Gaucho to score double-digit points and she also led the team with three steals while collecting four rebounds. Underwood had eight points and four rebounds while Mason had seven points and six rebounds. Kirsten Tilleman led all players with 10 rebounds.
For the Beavers, Bright led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds.
"We have to remember that it is a marathon not a sprint," said head coach Carlene Mitchell. "So, I have to do a better job of making our kids understand that it isn't always how you start, it's how you finish. We had a stuttering phase for four or five minutes in the second half. We know we have a lot of things we have to fix before the end of the year; it's unfortunate that we had be on the opposite end of the scoreboard today."
All of this week's games at the Hardwood Tournament of Hope will be broadcast live on KZSB AM 1290 in Santa Barbara. They can also be heard online here.
UCSB will return home on Tuesday, Nov. 27 to host USC in a 7 p.m. game at the Thunderdome. 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.