Gauchos Stumble After Strong Start, Can't Complete Comeback At Riverside 73-69

Drew Edelman (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Drew Edelman (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

RIVERSIDE, Calif.- For the opening quarter, UCSB looked like the same team that roared out of the gate and earned a convincing win in Hawaii.

Unfortunately, they couldn't keep the momentum going through the final three.

The Gauchos let an early 10-point lead slip, and despite battling back from a 10 point deficit in the fourth quarter couldn't overcome the UC Riverside Highlanders, losing 73-69 Thursday night at the SRC Arena.

"You have to show up and do you job. When we've done that we have found success, and when we've not, we have not come out on the right end," said head coach Bonnie Henrickson.

Drew Edelman equalled her career-high with 22 points, and grabbed 10 rebounds to post her fifth double-double of the season to lead UCSB (12-13, 7-5). Coco Miller and Sarah Porter each finished with 11 points, knocking down three triples apiece, while Drea Toler dealt a career-best nine assists.

Despite winning the turnover battle, generating 18 Highlander giveaways while converting just 15, the Gauchos allowed 24 points off their miscues while scoring just 14 from those by the hosts. The teams battled in the key all evening, with Riverside (14-11, 8-4) earning the 40-36 advantage.

Michelle Curry lead all scorers with a career-high 26 points, while Rejane Verin had 19 points with eight rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and two steals. UCR made 10 of 12 shots from the field in the second quarter to turn a 10-point deficit to a 2-point lead at halftime.

"We let them back in it with high percentage shots and free throws while we really struggled on the offensive end," Henrickson said.

UCSB came out active on both ends of the court, generating seven of their 14 steals for the game in the opening 10 minutes and working an inside-outside game to build the early lead. 12 of the 14 points over turnovers came in the opening frame, as Miller's treys on back-to-back possessions pushed the lead up to five just past the midway mark.

An Edelman bucket in the paint helped spark an 11-2 run to close the quarter, with Taylor Farris knocking down a corner jumper for two of her six points for the game, and Miller making a three and driving layup. After one the Gauchos held a 24-14 lead, having forced eight turnovers by UCR.

"We got off to a great start with 12 deflections in the first quarter, then come back and have only two in the second, and that's the consistency it takes to be really good. It's more magnified on the road," said Henrickson.

The lead stayed around ten points for the front half of the second with Porter knocking down two of her long balls and scoring on a baseline slash. After her layup with 4:52 remaining, Riverside went on a 16-4 run to close the half and take the lead to the break.

Curry scored 13 of her 26 for the game in the second, including sparking the run with three free throws and a layup. She scored 11 on the run, going 4-4 from the field and 5-7 from the line, as the Highlanders made 83.3% of their shots in the quarter, while holding the Gauchos to 6 of 16 shooting. UCSB turned the ball over three times and missed four of six shots during the stretch to trail 40-38 at the break.

"We have to have an answer when someone says 'Hey, lets forget our offense and just try to drive it at them'," Henrickson said.

A see-saw third saw the lead change hands six times and the score tied thrice, with the teams trading buckets back-and-forth over the final 2:09 to alternate one point edges. Edelman scored 11 of the Gauchos 18 points in the quarter, as UCSB responded defensively by holding Riverside to 6 of 16 shooting and clawed it to a 57-56 game through 30 minutes.

The Highlanders made the first three baskets of the final frame to extend their edge out to seven before an Edelman put back stopped the string. Still, UCR scored 14 of the first 19 points in the quarter to extend the lead out to ten points with 2:43 to play.

UCSB responded with a 6-0 run over the next 1:27, with free throws from Edelman and Jemerigbe, as well as a three from Porter trimming it to 71-67. However, Riverside made two of four free throws while the Gauchos managed just a bucket to close out the scoring.

The loss drops UCSB in to a tie with CSUN for fourth place, who knocked off UC Irvine 85-77. Saturday's opponent, Long Beach State, lost on the road at Cal Poly 69-67 to fall to 8-3 in conference. Tip off against the 49ers is at 4PM, with audio play-by-play broadcast coverage on UCSBGauchos.com, and video coverage by ESPN3.

"We've got to be active participants in our own rescue. The consistency it takes to be successful and consistency in life is difficult," said Henrickson.

"The good thing is we get to play again on Saturday, it's the time of year where we get to play."