UCSB broke some records but got its heart broken in the process during Wednesday’s quarterfinals of the Air Force Reserve Big West Conference Women’s Basketball Championships in Las Vegas.
UC Irvine’s Haleigh Talbert scored a runner with seven seconds left to overcome the Gauchos’ record-setting 18 three-pointers in a 92-90 thriller at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay.
“If you told me that the team we’re playing hit 18 threes and we won, I’d probably tell you that’s not correct,” Irvine coach Tamara Inoue said. “I’m just really, really proud of the team and the fight they showed today.
“There were a lot of times we could’ve hung our heads.”
UCSB’s 18-for-29 shooting (62.1%) from the three-point line shattered the Big West Tournament record of 13 threes set by UC Davis. It also shattered the school record of 15 threes set originally against UC Irvine in 2017 and tied this season against Cal State Bakersfield.
But the second-seeded Anteaters (14-8) shot 55.9% and made 10 threes of their own on 17 attempts (58.8%) to thwart the upset attempt of the seventh-seeded Gauchos (7-14). The 90 points were the most ever scored by a losing team in the Big West Tournament, and the 182 total points were the fourth-highest in the event’s history.
“Your defense is going to tell you whether you win or not,” UCSB coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “Your offense will tell you how much you’ll win by. And you’ve got to be better defensively. You can’t give up 92 points.”
“Certainly, that one stings. Just our activity level defensively wasn’t where we needed it to be. In stretches we were — not the whole game, obviously — we were just too much on our heels.”
Danae Miller made 5-of-7 threes and scored 18 points, which included two clutch free throws to tie the game at 87-all with 1:31 to go.
Taylor Mole hit 4-of-6 threes and netted a team-high 24 points — 19 in the first half. Megan Anderson added 4-of-7 bonus bombs and finished with 16 points, while Doris Jones added 15 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Anderson’s final three from the left corner on a kick-out pass from Miller tied the score at 90-all with 15 seconds remaining.
Talbert’s runner put Irvine back ahead, however. The Anteaters, meanwhile, clamped down hard on Miller when she tried to answer with a drive of her own with two seconds left.
Bri Anugwom was fouled while trying to tip in Miller’s miss, but she missed her first free throw. She also failed to hit the rim — creating a dead-ball situation — while intentionally missing her second foul shot to give UCSB the chance at a game-tying put-back.
“Bri’s tore up in the locker room, but if Bri doesn’t get an offensive rebound, we don’t have a chance,” Henrickson said. “Games are won and lost in 40 minutes of play.”
UCSB, which won five of its previous six games, shot 49.2% from the floor and lost the rebound battle just 30-27. Mole had had 11 rebounds to go with her 24 points.
“We definitely started with a lot of injuries,” Mole said. “Myself and Megan are transfers and we weren’t sure we were going to play, so to have us be able to play was a huge asset to the team.
“But this last month, we really hit our stride when we needed to get ready for the tournament. It’s just a tough feeling right now to know that it should’ve been our game to win. We scored enough points.”
Mole scored 14 points in the second quarter alone to give UCSB a lead that grew as large as 12 points, 43-31. But Chloe Webb banked in 30-footer at the halftime buzzer to trim Irvine’s deficit to 46-40. Webb led UCI with 20 points and eight rebounds.
“I’d definitely say that three gave us momentum going into the second half of the game,” Talbert said. “We were just talking in there, that we had to lock in on defense. Defense was going to help us win this game.
“They still managed to get off some threes, but we still battled through it and didn’t hang our heads.”
UCSB took a 10-point lead, 60-50, after making 4-of-5 threes during a two-minute flurry in the third quarter. But the Anteaters answered with an eight-point run. Neither team led by more than five points the rest of the way.
Sophia Locandro’s basket put UCI up 80-75 with six minutes to go, but back-to-back threes by Miller and Anderson, followed by runners by Anugwom and Mole, put UCSB back ahead 85-83.
But the Anteaters pulled out the victory despite playing without their leading scorer, Big West Freshman of the Year Kayla Williams.
“Kayla came back from a very serious injury,” Inoue said. “We’ve had her (playing) heavy, heavy minutes this whole season, playing back-to-back games. It’s been really tough on her leg.
“We talked to the trainer and we had a conversation and felt that another day of rest would benefit her. We definitely would need her, but I believe we’re deep and I believe Haleigh would lead the charge.”