Dec. 19, 2005
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team can boast its first winning streak of 2005-06 and second consecutive triumph over a member of the Pacific-10 Conference, defeating Arizona 86-63 Monday night in the Thunderdome.
With their widest victory margin of the young season, the Gauchos improved to 3-6 overall and will now enjoy a 10-day break from competition. Meanwhile the Wildcats lost their third straight contest - all on the road - to fall to 4-5.
For the first time this year UCSB led wire-to-wire, opening up early leads of 7-0 and 12-2 as UofA missed its first seven shots from the floor and went scoreless over the opening 4:53. The home team's advantage reached 20-5 at the 10:08 mark of the first half thanks to Jessica Wilson's driving layup and got as wide as 16 points on several occasions, but Arizona was able to remain in striking distance by sinking 13-of-16 free-throws in the opening period. In what may become a familiar tune, Wilson connected on a layup just as the buzzer sounded to put Santa Barbara ahead 39-27 at intermission.
Arizona's Linda Pace scored two quick buckets at the outset of the second half - prompting Gaucho head coach Mark French to use an early timeout - but that did little to halt the visitors' momentum as they pulled within 41-36 on an old-fashioned three-point play by Ashley Whisonant with 17:38 remaining. Freshman point guard LaShay Fears stopped the bleeding with a three-pointer, and with the UCSB lead at a precarious eight points with under 15 minutes to play, junior guard Erin O'Bryan knocked down back-to-back trifectas that brought the crowd of 1,003 to its collective feet. The visitors could pull no closer than 59-46 at the 11:12 mark, and a late 7-0 run - all coming courtesy of Wilson - put the contest out of reach.
Wilson was named Big West Conference Player of the Week on Monday, and justified that award with 20 points and nine rebounds, both the second-highest totals of her career. The Sacramento, Calif., native also dished off a personal best six assists, all coming on the heels of a 23-point, 11-board performance last Saturday vs. 24th-ranked UCLA. O'Bryan matched her teammate's scoring total to establish a new career high - draining six-of-nine shots - while Suderman also enjoyed a personal best of 13 points. Fears ran the offense effectively and dished off seven of Santa Barbara's season-best 20 team assists. After entering the game with a paltry 18.9% three-point percentage, the Gauchos connected on nine-of-19 attempts from beyond the arc.
Whisonant led all Wildcat scorers with 15 points, followed by Che Oh with 10. UofA hindered its cause by committing 19 turnovers, compared to only 13 by the home team.
UCSB will be out of action until Friday, Dec. 30 when it continues a season-long five-game homestand by hosting Pepperdine in the Thunderdome at 7:00 p.m.