March 3, 2012
DAVIS, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara jumped to a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game and then held off UC Davis down the stretch as the Gauchos upended the Aggies 60-56 in a crucial Big West Conference women's basketball game on Saturday afternoon at The Pavilion.
The loss was the regular-season finale for UC Davis which falls to 17-11 overall and 9-7 in the Big West Conference, and creates a potential three-way tie for third in the standings. UC Irvine also finished 9-7 and Pacific is 9-6 heading into its home matchup against first-place Cal Poly later Saturday.
Because of conference tiebreakers, a loss by Pacific delivers UC Davis the No. 4 seed and gives it a home game against the Tigers on Tuesday night in the first round of the Big West Tournament. If the Tigers beat Cal Poly, UC Davis will fall to the No. 5 seed and play at No. 4 seed UC Irvine on Tuesday.
The Aggies were trying to clinch a home game while sending their five seniors - Hana Asaso, Lauren Juric, Samantha Meggison and Kasey Riecks - out with a win in their final regular-season game on Hamilton Court. However, UC Santa Barbara improved to 14-15 overall and 8-8 in the Big West behind 21 points from guard Kelsey Adrian, 13 from guard Emilie Johnson and 11 by Kirsten Tilleman.
"I'm not sure what happened in the first couple of minutes," said Aggie coach Jennifer Gross. "Credit Santa Barbara, they came out firing. Their seniors - Emilie and Kelsey - stepped up and hit some really big shots, tough shots, to get them going.
"On offense for us, I felt like we were working the ball around and getting good looks and we just weren't knocking them down. To come out on top every segment of the game, you've got to be getting stops and you've got to get scores and we struggled to do that to start the game."
The Gauchos rode a strong start to take a 14-0 lead, benefitting mostly from the hot hand of Adrian, who canned a trio of early three-pointers, and from Sweets Underwood who had four points. The Aggies missed their first five shots - three of them from beyond the arc - and had three turnovers before French got them on the scoreboard with her trey just under six minutes into the game.
UC Davis trailed 21-9 near the midway portion of the first half but picked up layups from Juric, Blair Shinoda and Brianna Salvatore to slice the deficit to just six points. Melissa Zornig's layup, however, capped a 6-0 surge by UCSB which re-opened its least to 30-17. The Gauchos shot 52 percent (13 of 25) in the opening 20 minutes and made 5 of 10 from beyond the arc while the Aggies made just 36.4 percent (8 of 22) of their attempts.
UCSB, which led 32-22 at halftime, pushed the lead to 41-27 after five minutes and didn't let UC Davis get closer than seven points until French's jumper's with 3:39 to go made it 50-45. Meggison's three-pointer made it a four-point game at 52-48 with 1:12 remaining, but the Gauchos made eight free throws in the final minute to counter three-pointers from French and Hannah Stephens sandwiched around a pair of free throws from Meggison.
UC Davis made 6 of 10 from three-point territory in the second half and was 8 of 19 for the game - French was 3 of 4 - while Juric and Meggison each had seven rebounds. Juric, Stephens and Shinoda finished with three assists each.
Adrian hit seven of her 13 field goal attempts and was 4 of 8 from three-point to help with her 21 points. Kirsten Tilleman added nine rebounds for the Gauchos and Johnson had five assists.
UC Davis was trying to send off its quartet of seniors who have each enjoyed tremendous success for the Aggies during their careers. Asana is among the all-time leaders in assists, Juric is on the program's top-10 list for blocked shots, Meggison is among the all-time steals leaders and Kasey Riecks became just the 15th Aggie to score at least 1,000 career points.
The Big West Conference will announce all first-round matchups for the conference tournament later Saturday. The winner will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.