Riverside's Second Half Surge Downs UCSB 67-57

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Despite holding UC Riverside to 22 percent shooting in the first half, UC Santa Barbara saw the Highlanders erupt with 48 second-half points in taking the 67-57 decision.

With the loss, the Gauchos fall to 2-9 in conference and 7-17 overall, while UC Riverside secured its second straight win and is now 2-10 in the Big West and 6-19 on the year. 

Nicole Nesbit and Melissa Zornig led UCSB with 16 points apiece, as the two also picked up three assists on the night.

Destini Mason was the other Gaucho to reach double figures with 11, while also pulling down seven rebounds.

The Gauchos toughed their way to a 24-19 lead by the halftime break, as they limited the Highlanders to just 6-of-27 shooting from the floor.

Santa Barbara found early success in the paint, scoring 12 of their first half points in the key. Clair Watkins was a big reason for UCSB's hot start as she finished the first with six points and six rebounds.

In opening the game, the junior post player power dribbled her way to a layup for the first Gaucho basket of the night after receiving the entry pass from Nesbit.

Watkins would finish the game shy of a double double with eight points and eight boards.

With both teams struggling to knock down its shots early on, UCSB took its largest lead of the half thanks to an 8-0 run.

As the teams jostled for the lead, Simone DeCoud connected on her first triple to put the Highlanders ahead 14-13 with 8:52 remaining. Nesbit had a quick response for the Gauchos with a three-ball of her own on the ensuing possession to regain the lead.

Mi'Chael Wright and Watkins each added a layup to the run, while Mason hit a 15-footer in gaining the eight-point advantage with four minutes remaining.   

In closing out the half, Riverside's Brittany Crain made three looks at the charity stripe to make it a one possession game, but the Gauchos had the final say with Watkins nabbing her third layup to put her team ahead 24-19. 

The Highlanders' Natasha Hadley opened the second half with four unanswered points to narrow the deficit to one, but UCSB answered back with a 9-2 scoring stretch in taking a 10-point lead.

Zornig had five of those points, including the initial jumper from the foul line, while Nesbit added four of her own.

Santa Barbara would remain ahead in the game until the Highlanders broke out on a 16-4 run and retook the lead at 41-39 with 9:33 left to play.

Crain capped off the run by draining back-to-back looks from downtown. The sophomore finished with a game-high 31 points along with 11 rebounds. DeCood also played a big role in the comeback, as she finished with 18 points, going 6-of-9 in the second.

After the second triple, the Gauchos trailed the rest of the game, as Riverside would finish the second half with 56 percent shooting. 

UCSB will be back in game action this Saturday at Cal State Fullerton starting at 6 p.m. An audio broadcast of the game will be featured online at UCSBgauchos.com. 

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