LONG BEACH, Calif. – In a game that featured a comeback effort suitable for any contest during March Madness, UC Santa Barbara fell just short in the 58-57 decision to UC Davis in the First Round of the Big West Tournament.
"I'm extremely proud of this team," UCSB Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. "That was not an 8-22 team that played those final minutes. Those last twenty minutes is what I'm going to remember from these seniors and what they have given to this program."
After battling back from 17 points down, the Gauchos found themselves with the chance to put up the game-winning basket. With four seconds on the clock, UCSB had to bring the ball up the full length of the floor for the opportunity. As the UC Davis defense collapsed on Melissa Zornig and Destini Mason in the backcourt, Nicole Nesbit found Onome Jemerigbe on the inbounds play. The speedy freshman flew up the floor and heaved up the game's final shot at the buzzer, which missed off the back iron.
UCSB ends the season with an 8-22 record, while UC Davis (15-15) advances to the quarterfinals where they will face UC Irvine.
The three seniors led the team the entire season in the scoring column and fittingly made up the team's top-three point totals against the Aggies. Zornig paced the floor with 21 points, while Mason and Nesbit each finished with 16.
The seniors also took it upon themselves to bring the Gauchos back into contention in the second half, as they combined for 29 points.
At halftime, UCSB trailed UC Davis 35-18 after shooting just 8-for-30 from the floor, but the team was quick to find the scoreboard after the break.
With the opening possession, Nesbit knocked down a three-pointer from the left wing. She went on to collect a rebound on defense when Molly Gruebel's missed her shot from downtown. Nesbit pushed the ball up the floor and soon found Zornig who hit a short jumper to extend the run to five points.
Still trailing 35-23, the Gauchos elevated their game on defense to produce on offense.
UCSB forced the Aggies into 12 turnovers in the final 20 minutes and capitalized on them with 20 points.
At the 8:40 mark, UCSB found itself within single digits of UC Davis at 49-42, but the Aggies then fired off six unanswered points to push their lead back to 13.
Behind 55-42 with 6:22 remaining, the Gauchos forced the momentum back in their hands and finished with game on a 13-3 run.
UCSB put on full court pressure, which flustered the Davis offense into turning the ball over five teams with the Gauchos picking up three steals.
Jemerigbe started the scoring after grabbing the first swipe, which set the stage for Zornig to score on an open jumper. Mason followed up that basket after she created space in the paint off a reverse pivot move.
Santa Barbara came back within two possessions since the early goings of the first half after Zornig netted a triple to make the score 56-51.
Davis wouldn't score again until a technical foul was called on the Gaucho bench with just 65 seconds left. The whistle sent Greubel to the line where she drained a pair of free throws to put her team up by three.
Playing lockdown defense, UCSB forced Davis into committing a shot clock violation, which left the Gauchos owning possession for the game's final four seconds.
Despite coming up one basket short, Santa Barbara outscored UC Davis in the second half 39-23.