SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Despite roaring back from an 18-point deficit to cut the USC lead to six with 1:15 to go, the UCSB women's basketball team was unable to complete its comeback as it fell, 62-51, to the visiting Trojans on Tuesday evening in the Thunderdome.
Senior Angelei Aguirre led the team with a career-high 13 points to go along with two rebounds and three assists. Another bright spot for the Gauchos was freshman Kendra Morrison, who contributed 11 points, while going 5-for-5, in 19 minutes of work during the second half.
The opening half remained tight in the early goings, but consecutive layups by Brianna Barrett and Cassie Harberts with just under seven minutes to go stole the lead from the Gauchos and ignited a 14-4 run that put the Trojans ahead, 31-22, at half.
Coming out of the locker rooms, USC quickly built its lead to 13 points prompting UCSB head coach Carlene Mitchell to sub-in four reserves: Jasmine Ware, Jackie Luna-Castro, Madeline Campbell and Morrison.
"I understand that they are a physical team and I kept asking the players 'who wants to battle,'" Mitchell said of the personnel change. "You can look in players' eyes sometimes and tell who is ready to get after it. That's what I wanted."
USC built its lead to 18-points at 53-35 with 10:14 to go, but UCSB responded with a 16-4 run that was punctuated by a steal and fastbreak layup by Morrison that cut the lead to 57-51 with 1:15 on the clock.
Destinie Gibbs was able to put up a clutch three-pointer with 48 seconds on the clock to once again distance the Trojans and keep the Gauchos at bay.
Harberts' 17 points, four rebounds and five assists led USC while Jordan Adams poured in 12 points for the Trojans, who shot 48.9% for the game. The Gauchos, who came into the game holding opponents to just 20.3% shooting beyond the arc, saw USC shoot 56.3% after hitting 9-of-16 three-point attempts.
After shooting 37.5% from the field in the first half, UCSB improved to 61.1% in the second (11-for-18) to end the game shooting 47.6%. They shot 50% from the three-point range, but saw just six attempts. The second half also displayed improved ball control by the Gauchos. After committing 10 turnovers in the first, they had just three in the second.
"USC is well-coached, they are bigger, and they were stronger than we were tonight, so I have to give them all the credit for the win," Mitchell said. "I am a little disappointed in the fact that we didn't get a better start to the game, but I am excited for the fact that these two young women sitting beside me (Morrison and Aguirre) ended the game and competed until the final buzzer went off. That's what I would like our team to do from tip to final buzzer. So, there are a lot of things that we can learn from this and we will continue to get better."
UCSB will remain at home to host St. Mary's on Saturday in a 2 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.
Saturday's game will be broadcast live on KZSB AM 1290 in Santa Barbara. It can also be heard online here.