SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – In their tightest battle since the start of Big West play, UC Santa Barbara fell just three points short to Hawai'i in the 63-60 final at the Thunderdome on Thursday night.
The Gauchos conclude the first round of the conference schedule with a 1-7 mark and are 6-15 overall. With the win, the Rainbow Wahine improve to 5-3 in Big West play and are now 11-9 on the season.
Melissa Zornig took charge of the UCSB offense to start the game, as she made the Gauchos' first four field goals.
The senior also drained the first seven points for her team capped off by a three-pointer to put UCSB up 7-4 with 16:22 left in the half.
Zornig completed the night with a floor-leading 16 points off a 7-14 shooting performance.
Hawai'i climbed out of the early hole, though, and gained a 17-8 advantage at the 9:42 mark.
The Gauchos were quick to respond with a 13-4 run through the following eight minutes to tie the game at 21. Again, it was Zornig who took the lead in the scoring spree as she opened the run with a layup and added another triple.
Nicole Nesbit also contributed four points, including the game-tying jumper from the left wing. The senior finished with 13 points and four assists.
The Rainbow Wahine closed the first half with the narrow 24-23 edge, as Ashleigh Karaitiana made a tiebreaking free throw with 20 seconds left.
To start the second, the Gauchos kept the score close, though Hawai'i extended its lead to five points through the first three minutes.
UCSB would make its move and recapture the lead with a 15-6 run starting with Zornig knocking down a jumper from the charity stripe.
Later in the run, Destini Mason put up back-to-back baskets. First, she made a baseline layup and followed that up with a downtown shot to push the Gauchos ahead 36-34.
UCSB would hold on to the lead until the 2:31 mark when Kamilah Jackson made consecutive layups to give Hawai'i a one-point lead at 57-56.
Onome Jemerigbe showed poise in the final minute of the game, as she made layups on two occasions to keep the Gauchos within one.
The freshman finished with 10 points, going 4-5 from the field.
The Rainbow Wahine, though, were able to keep ahead with their free throw shooting, as they garnered a three-point lead with seven seconds left.
After a timeout called by Carlene Mitchell, Destini Mason ran the ball up the floor and was looking for Nicole Nesbit for the game tying shot, but was fouled with 0.8 seconds left. She approached the free throw line to shoot a 1-and-1, but missed the first shot which landed in the hands of Destiny King who made the game-clinching rebound.
UCSB next play on Thursday Feb. 13 when they host Long Beach State in the Thunderdome at 7 p.m. For tickets, visit the Ticketing Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building, call 805.893.UCSB (8272), or click here.