March 10, 2010
ANAHEIM, Calif. - One of them was a veteran, playing in the Big West Tournament for the fourth consecutive year. One was making her first appearance at the annual tourney. Different stories, obviously, but each played a huge role in the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team winning its first-round game against an over-matched Pacific team, 82-54, on Wednesday afternoon.
Senior Meagan Williams scored a season-high 24 points and junior Mekia Valentine, who transferred to UCSB from Wake Forest, had 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots. Williams tied a UCSB record for field goals made in a Big West Tournament game while Valentine set the school blocks mark for a tourney game.
The victory - UCSB's largest in a Big West Tournament game since a 33-point win over UC Irvine in 2003 - was the Gauchos' sixth in a row as the team improved to 14-16 on the season. UCSB, seeded fifth in the tournament, will play No. 4 Long Beach State on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.
"A couple months ago when we were struggling, I challenged them `Who do we want to be? How do we want to handle the adversity of losing?'" head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "And they responded by saying `We want to get in the gym, we want to watch more film' and they showed by their actions and their tenacity and togetherness and it feels good at this point in the season as a much-improved team."
Emilie Johnson added 12 points for the Gauchos, who kept their lead at double digits for the majority of the game.
UCSB trailed 5-2 early on, but Valentine blocked a shot on one end, then grabbed an offensive rebound and converted the layup before Emilie Johnson canned a 3-pointer then a long two-pointer. That fueled a 22-2 run, putting UCSB in control.
The Gauchos ended the first half with a 40-25 advantage as Valentine nearly had a double-double at the break with 16 points and eight rebounds in the first 20 minutes of play.
Follow the Gauchos and Their March to Madness
New this year, UCSB Athletics is making it easier than ever for fans to follow both the men's and women's basketball teams. Aside from live streaming audio of all the men's and women's games, fans can get in-game updates through our Twitter page at twitter.com/UCSBgauchos. Get highlight videos and behind-the-scenes looks of both teams through our our YouTube page at youtube.com/UCSBGauchosAthletics. And, be sure to join our growing legion of fans at facebook.com/UCSBAthletics. Also be sure to add Olé as a friend by searching "Olé Gaucho" on Facebook.
Thursday's women's basketball game will be broadcast live on AM 1490 and also be available online, by clicking here.. And, UCSB Athletics is proud to announce that the baseball team will have over 20 games broadcast live on the air and through our website, UCSBgauchos.com.