IRVINE, Calif. – UCSB (12-20) battled from 12 points down to capture a late-game lead against UC Davis (18-12), but the Aggies survived the Gauchos' comeback and took the 71-67 decision in the Bren Events Center on Wednesday night.
The loss ended UCSB's season, while UC Davis will move on to the Big West semifinals on Friday to play first-seeded UC Riverside.
"What I think is the best part of all of this is how disappointed we are," UCSB Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "This group grew out of the mentality that being close was good enough. Now they have grown to where they are truly disappointed after a game like this because they truly believe that they are good enough to win."
The Gauchos found themselves down 34-22 with 2:40 left in the first half and were able to cut the deficit to six points by halftime partly thanks to back-to-back threes from Dioseline Lopez and Makala Roper. Lopez banked her triple from straight on, while Roper came through 39 seconds later after knocking down a wide-open look from the left wing. Roper would go on to sink three triples and team highs of 20 points and four assists.
Once the team returned for the third quarter, they wasted no time to continue where they left off and fired off five unanswered points to open the half, making the score 36-35 Davis. Coco Miller hit the three that made it a one-point game, but Celia Marfone immediately responded for the Aggies with a triple of her own.
That basket not only gave UC Davis its two-possession lead, but it also triggered a 10-1 run over the span of 4:50.
Je Zhé Newton got the Gauchos back on track with a trip to the foul line where she made one of her two looks. She was later followed by Jemerigbe who attacked her way to the charity stripe as well, setting the tone for the team through the end of the period.
"In the third quarter, I felt like we needed momentum," Jemerigbe said. "I just looked to drive it down hill and do what I needed to do to help the team."
The junior – who finished the game with 11 points – would continue attacking the rest of the way, as she scored the Gauchos' final five points of the quarter all from drives.
Her final scoring effort was a three-point play, which gave UCSB its first lead since the first quarter at 49-48. The Aggies, though, had the last say before the break with Rachel Nagel banking a midrange jumper with one second on the clock.
This set the stage for a wild fourth quarter that featured eight lead changes and one tied score. The teams traded off baskets to open the period with Jasmine Ware sinking the first shot for UCSB, as Morgan Bertsch put up Davis's first response.
This kept the point differential fixated at one-point, until the Gauchos put up four straight points with a transition lay up from Roper and a pair of free throws from Chaya Durr.
Durr would go on to net a field goal with 4:05 to play to garner UCSB a 64-61 lead, but the Aggies responded with their biggest run of the quarter with seven unanswered points.
Perhaps the most important shot of that run was the final one when Pele Gianotti knocked down an open three from the right wing, giving UC Davis a four-point edge with 1:50 to go.
Roper stepped up for the Gauchos and struck back with her third triple to cut the deficit to one point at the 1:32 mark. Forced to foul, UCSB gave up three more points at the free throw line, which made the difference in the four-point loss.