Jan. 6, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - With its offense firing on all cylinders, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team shot a season-high 54.4% from the field and soundly defeated visiting UC Irvine 86-67 Saturday afternoon in the Thunderdome. Junior guard Jessica Wilson had a brilliant all-around game, finishing with 15 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals, and three blocks, to lead five players in double figures.
With its season-best third straight win - all in conference play - UCSB improves to 7-8 overall in 2006-07 and 3-1 in the Big West. UCI falls to 3-12 (1-1) after dropping eight of its last nine games.
The Gauchos' offense was the story Saturday afternoon with five players scoring 10 points or more for the first time this season. Sophomore guard LaShay Fears led the way with 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range to go with six assists. Junior guard Chisa Ononiwu tallied her highest total as a Gaucho with 16 points, making six of her seven attempts from the floor, three of which came from downtown. Wilson scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game and her 15 points came on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. Sophomore forward Whitney Warren was a perfect 6-for-6 and finished with 15 points, while Junior center Jenna Green added 13 points and a game-high four blocked shots.
Wilson's 12 assists were a career-best and the most by a Gaucho this season.
As a team, Santa Barbara hit 31-of-57 shots from the field and the Gauchos knocked down a season-best 70% (7-for-10) of their three-point attempts. UCSB shot 55.2% overall in the first half of play and made 15-of-28 shots in the second, 54.4%. The Gauchos recorded 22 assists on their 31 made baskets, also a season-high.
"I think what you saw was as close to a strong, consistent performance on the offensive end of the floor for the entire game as we have had all season," head coach Mark French said. "I think our offense is really finding its rhythm, we our distributing the ball well, and obviously we had a great day shooting the ball. It always helps anytime you have five players in double figures, as well."
The Anteaters were led by senior guard Angie Ned with a game-high 20 points on 7-for-21 shooting, while fellow guards Annie Mai and Miranda Forry scored 19 and 13 respectively.
UCSB jumped out to an early 8-0 lead capped off by Ononiwu's first of three treys on the afternoon at the 16:52 mark. The Gauchos then used a 20-9 run over the next eight minutes to build their biggest lead of the half at 28-9, with 9:01 remaining in the opening period.
UCI closed to within 11 at 34-23 after a Mai three-point hit, but the Gauchos responded with a layup from Warren on their next possession and Green hit one of two free throws to increase the cushion back to 14. UCSB went into the locker room leading by the same margin, 43-29.
The second half was more of the same for Santa Barbara, as the Gauchos' lead increased to 20 points at 53-33 at the 16:27 mark after a 7-0 run keyed by a three-pointer from Fears. Roughly four minutes later, the lead swelled to 21 at 63-42, the largest of the afternoon for Santa Barbara.
Haley Tull's three cut the UCSB lead to 14 with 2:32 left to play, but Ononiwu matched it the next time down to give the Gauchos a 81-64 advantage and seal the victory in a game in which Santa Barbara never trailed.
UCI shot a respectable 38.3% from the floor, making 23-of-60 attempts and hit 7-of-19 shots from beyond the arc (36.8%). UCSB out-rebounded the opposition for the third straight game, holding a 46-28 advantage.
Utah Valley State is up next for the Gauchos this Thursday, January 11 in the Thunderdome, with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m.