March 3, 2007

Gauchos Throttle Cal State Northridge 90-79 to Clinch Big West's Second Seed

March 3, 2007

Box Score

NORTHRIDGE, Calif - Jessica Wilson scored 17 points to lead six players in double figures and UC Santa Barbara tallied a season-high on the way to a 90-79 victory over Cal State Northridge Saturday afternoon in the Matadome. With the win the Gauchos finish second in the Big West standings and will earn a bye into the semifinal round of next week's conference tournament.

UCSB finishes the 2006-07 regular season with a 17-12 overall record and captured the Big West's second seed with a conference mark of 10-4. CSUN wraps up the year with a 13-15 overall regular season record and 9-5 mark in league play.

The Gauchos produced one of their most balanced scoring attacks of the season as a total of six players finished in double figures. Wilson scored a team-high 23 on 6-for-11 shooting, went 2-of-4 from behind the three-point arc, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out a game-high four assists.

Chisa Ononiwu finished 8-of-13 from the field for 16 points, to go with six rebounds, three assists, and a career-high four steals. LaShay Fears scored in double figures for the third straight game, tallying 15 on 2-of-5 shooting. She was 9-of-13 at the free-throw line, had five rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Meagan Williams had one of the best performances of her young career, finishing 5-of-9 from the floor for 14 points, just two shy of her career-best. The freshman was 2-of-3 from downtown, led the Gauchos with a career-high eight rebounds, and had two helpers in 23 minutes off the bench. Lastly, Whitney Warren was 4-for-5 and scored 10 points to round out the scoring leaders for the Gauchos.

Ofa Tulikihihifo scored a game-high 23 points on 9-for-19 shooting to lead the Matadors. LaJoyce King scored 13 of her 16 points in the second half and Jamie McCaa and Ashley Blake added 15 apiece.

Santa Barbara came out of the gates firing, took an early lead, and never looked back. After Wilson and McCaa hit back-to-back triples, Wilson scored inside and Ononiwu sank a baseline jumper as the Gauchos hit their first three shots to take an early 7-3 lead. UCSB then used a 13-3 run keyed by eight points from Williams and Warren to build a 20-6 advantage with 12:30 remaining in the first half. The Gaucho lead ballooned to 21 at 33-12 less than four minutes later following an Ononiwu jumper from the free-throw line.

McCaa's second three-point hit pulled the Matadors to within 17, 38-21 with 1:35 left in the period, but Williams responded with a triple of her own and Wilson hit a jumper to give UCSB its biggest lead of the half, 43-21 heading into the locker room.

The Gauchos shot 51.4% from the field in the first half, while the Matadors shot just 25.7% and committed 16 turnovers.

Santa Barbara connected on its first four attempts after intermission and built its biggest lead of the afternoon at 53-28 after Fears sank her second three at the 16:25 mark. Northridge trimmed six points of the Gaucho lead to trail by 19 at 55-36 following a McCaa jumper from the wing with 12:28 remaining. UCSB's lead did not dip below 19 points for the next 10 minutes of play until Blake and McCaa made consecutive threes to bring the Matadors within 14 at 78-64 with 2:42 left to play.

The Gauchos responded, however, as Jenna Green, Fears, and Wilson combined to make seven free-throws and UCSB's lead reached 21 again at 87-66 with 1:31 left on the clock. With the Gaucho starters on the bench, Northridge closed the game on a 13-3 run, but it was too little too late and Santa Barbara held on for the 90-79 win.

UCSB never trailed in the game and tied its high-mark for the season. The Gauchos also scored 90 in a win over UC Davis Feb. 3.

Santa Barbara shot 50% for the game, hitting 30 of its 60 shots from the floor, while CSUN overcame a 9-for-35 start in the first half to shoot 39.4% (26-66) overall. Santa Barbara shot the ball well from deep again, finishing 8-of-17 from three-point territory, 47.1%. The Gauchos won the rebounding battle by a 41-36 margin and allowed just four Northridge offensive rebounds after the Matadors pulled down 12 in the first half.

While the Gauchos held a slim 24-22 advantage in the paint, they turned 24 Matador turnovers into 25 points. CSUN scored 20 points on 25 UCSB miscues.

With the bye into the third day of the Big West tournament, Santa Barbara will have five days off before returning to action Friday, March 9. The Gauchos will play their semifinal opponent at 2:30 p.m. or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first semifinal, which starts at 12:00 noon.

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