HENDERSON, Nev. – The No. 5 UCSB women’s basketball team came out firing in its Big West Tournament Quarterfinal against No. 4 UC Riverside Wednesday at The Dollar Loan Center, but the Gauchos weren’t able to hit shots down the stretch as the Highlanders came back for a 46-42 win.
UCSB (15-12) scored more points in the first quarter (23) than in the next three combined (19). The Gauchos shot 75% (9/12 FG) in the opening period, but just 21.6% (8/37 FG) the rest of the way.
Junior guard Alexis Tucker led UCSB in scoring for the third straight game with 14 points (6/13 FG), 10 coming in the first. She also pulled down twice as many rebounds (12) as any other player for her first double-double of the season and had two steals.
Danae Miller (9 points) and Ila Lane (8) were both held to single-digits. Miller had a game-high five assists, giving her 443 for her career and moving past Onome Jemerigbe for No. 4 all-time at UCSB.
The Gauchos struggled offensively in each of their two regular season meetings with the Highlanders (14-10), but that wasn’t the case off the opening tip. UCSB had its second-highest scoring first quarter of the season with 23 points, one more than its previous two meetings with UCR combined.
Senior Taylor Mole came off the bench to hit a three and put in a tough driving floater, which capped an 8-0 UCSB run.
Tucker’s offensive arsenal was on full display, and the Gauchos used their size to their advantage, finding Lane over the top to go up 21-13 with 1:36 to go in the first. The Gauchos led 23-18 after one.
The defensive intensity picked up the rest of the half, with players taking charges frustrating the opposing offense. The Highlanders outscored UCSB 10-6 in the second, trailing the Gauchos 29-28 at the break.
During the second half, A three-pointer from senior guard Megan Anderson put UCSB up 34-28 at the 7:04 mark, but Lane would pick up her third offensive foul shortly after.
Tucker finished a coast-to-coast move with a gorgeous burst into a reverse layup to put UCSB back up by eight, 36-28 with 5:20 to go in the third.
To that point, UCR had gone just 3-of-20 from the field since the start of the second. However, the Highlanders would start hitting shots, tying the game with an 8-0 run before Danae Miller hit a buzzer beater, fading to her right to put UCSB up 38-36 heading into the fourth.
Jordan Webster’s three-pointer with 5:57 left in the game gave UCR its first lead in a long time, 41-38. UCSB would cut it to a one-point lead with a putback by Anya Choice on the next possession.
The final minutes were a struggle for both sides as they fought and scrapped for every loose ball. UCSB got two good three-point looks in the final minute, but came up short on each attempt.
Leading 44-42 with 11 seconds left, the Highlanders put the game away at the free throw line.
Michael Jorgenson writes about sports for UCSB.