The UCSB women’s basketball team flexed its resilience against Sacramento State on Saturday at the Thunderdome, coming back from an 11-point deficit to defeat the Hornets 66-58.
Junior guard Alexis Tucker led the charge with her best game yet this season, staying aggressive throughout on her way to scoring a season-high 21 points (7-11 FG) from all over the court.
The Gauchos (5-3) improved to a perfect 3-0 mark in the month of December while dropping the Hornets to 4-7 overall.
The opening 20 minutes provided one of the closest halves you could ever see. Neither team held a lead of more than three points until the last two minutes before halftime, and there were 13 lead changes.
Even when the Hornets finally took the first five-point lead of the game, the Gauchos answered with a three-point play by Kennedy Johnson, who strode through the lane to finish a tough layup plus one.
Alexis Tucker dropped a couple of absolute highlights, including a dazzling spin into a lefty finish in transition as well as a stop-on-a-dime pull-up jumper. She led the team with seven points as UCSB trailed 29-27 heading into the break.
Sac State pounced on UCSB out of halftime, hitting a three on its first possession to start a 12-3 run. The Hornets took their first double-digit lead, 41-30, with 5:02 remaining in the third.
The Gauchos woke up and pulled back within two thanks to a quick 9-0 run, bookended by a jumper and two free throws by junior forward Tatyana Modawar.
Trailing by five to start the fourth, UCSB came out on fire to go on the game’s decisive run. Tucker led the way, continuing to have her best game of the season with five points right away on a three and a strong attack to the basket.
The Gauchos scored four more times before the Hornets could find a response, taking their largest lead, 55-47, on a jumper from junior center Ila Lane at the 5:30 mark as they opened the period with 13 unanswered points. That made it a 25-6 extended run over a span of less than 10 minutes. UCSB would lead by as many as 12 points before it was all over.
During Saturday’s game, the Gauchos erased a double-digit deficit for the first time in a win this season.
First-year Gaucho Alexis Tucker set a new career-high with 21 points. She joins Lane and Megan Anderson as the only Gauchos with 20-point games this year.
Santa Barbara’s defense was huge down the stretch, particularly in the fourth when the Gauchos outscored the Hornets 24-11. Lane and Tucker led all players with three steals apiece. Lane also tied a season-high with three blocks for the second straight outing.
Senior point guard Danae Miller was UCSB’s only other double-digit scorer with 11 points and three assists. She has now reached double-figures in three straight games.
“We knew going into the locker room, that’s not how we wanted to play. We can do better,” Coach Danae Miller said. “We were fired up and ready to come out after halftime to just do the best that we could and let them know that we are a team to be reckoned with. I think we did a great job just answering, having more energy, and being more motivated to take care of business.”
The Gauchos will close out their non-conference schedule when they travel to face San Jose State Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Michael Jorgenson writes sports stories for UCSB.