Women's Basketball: Late Rally Comes Up Short, As UCSB Tops Tigers, 69-62
Gena Johnson scored in double-figures for the third straight game for the Pacific women's basketball team, but UC Santa Barbara's Emilie Johnson scored a career-high 31 points on 11-of-12 from the field to lead the Gauchos to a 69-62 win over the Tigers at Pacific's Alex G. Spanos Center Thursday night.
The Tigers' Johnson, a freshman guard out of Elk Grove, Calif., came off the bench for a team-high 16 points on six-of-nine shooting, while sophomore guard Erica McKenzie (Sparks, Nev.) added 13 points on four three-pointers, but for the second-straight meeting this season, UCSB pulled away midway through the second half with a sizeable run in an otherwise tight ballgame.
An 18-4 run over 6:52 beginning at the 11:47 mark turned a one-point Tiger lead into a 13-point Gaucho advantage. The Tigers battled back, but couldn't overcome a 39-28 rebounding advantage by UCSB and two controversial, yet costly turnovers in the final five minutes.
"Emilie Johnson was awesome tonight. Every time we made a run in the second half, she answered. It wasn't like we weren't guarding her, she made some tough shots," head coach Lynne Roberts said. "We just got beat on the boards. They're a very good defensive team, and the last part of defense is rebounding. They were blocking us out and limited us to eight offensive boards, and we gave them eight more offensive possessions from their offensive boards, and that was the game."
The Tigers connected on 8-of-19 from three-point range and posted higher field goal (45.1 to 44.8), three-point (42 to 39) and free throw (73 to 60) percentages than the Gauchos, but UCSB tallied more points in the paint (32 to 28), points off turnovers (19 to 13) and second chance points (18 to 12).
Freshman forward Danielle Peacon (Sparks, Nev.) added eight points and three blocked shots, while sophomore forward Jordan Rogers (Sparks, Nev.) tallied seven points and six assists. Senior guard Jennifer Fath (Carrollton, Texas) and senior center Christina Thompson (Sacramento, Calif.) each added six points with Fath handing out a pair of assists and Thompson grabbing five rebounds. Sophomore forward Kendall Rodriguez (La Habra, Calif.) led Pacific on the glass with eight rebounds.
UCSB's Mekia Valentine turned in a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Gauchos improved to 12-9 overall and 6-3 in the Big West.
Pacific falls to 6-16 overall, 3-6 in the Big West.
Peacon and Fath each drained a three to open the game, and after a Peacon free throw, McKenzie hit a triple as Pacific led 17-10 eight minutes in. The Tigers forced seven turnovers on UCSB's first 16 possessions.
The Tigers held the Gauchos without a field goal for 8:15, but Emilie Johnson scored 11 of UCSB's first 13 points and Valentine tallied inside to pull UCSB within two, at 21-19.
Christina Thompson scored in the paint and Gena Johnson added the hoop and some harm, but Melissa Zornig hit a three-pointer in the final seconds as the game entered halftime knotted at 30-30.
Pacific shot 55 percent (12-of-22) in the first half, while UCSB connected at a 40 percent clip (12-of-30). But the Gauchos clawed their way back from down nine to tie the game at the half, thanks to a 13-5 lead in second-chance points.
"I thought we did a great job in the first half, and we had an opportunity in the first half to extend the lead and we missed a couple opportunities," Roberts said. "We could have been up six to 10 at half, instead of tied. It might have been a different outcome had we gone into halftime with the lead."
McKenzie opened the second half with a three-pointer, but UCSB's Johnson answered with a jumper and after a lay-up from Gena Johnson gave Pacific a 37-34 lead, Zornig and Valentine connected with back-to-back jumpers for UCSB's first lead of the game at 38-37 with 14:15 to go.
Twice the two Johnsons traded baskets, with the fourth - by Emilie Johnson - kicking off a 16-4 run for the Gauchos over the next 6:52, highlighted by a her deep three-pointer and a pair of jumpers from Nicole Nesbit.
It was the Tigers Johnson who delivered a three-pointer to halt the run and pull the Tigers to within 10, at 58-48, with 4:55 to go.
After a stop on the defense end, Rogers knocked down a triple to cut the deficit to seven. Emilie Johnson scored on a layup inside to tie her previous career best of 29 points and then Rogers appeared to knock down another a three-pointer, but the made basket was wiped away by a controversial traveling call.
The Tigers battled back with a three-pointer from McKenzie to narrow the gap to seven, at 62-55 with 2:02 to go, and after trading a pair of free throws, McKenzie struck again at to pull Pacific within 66-62 with 1:01 left. After UCSB hit one of two from the free throw line, Pacific was called for a double-dribble despite the ball being batted loose, and the Gauchos closed it out from the free throw line.
"I think we showed a lot of toughness. It's been tough," Roberts said, referencing the Tigers battle with a flu bug this week. "We had a pair of kids [getting sick] before the game tonight. So we're beat up, but there's nothing you can do about that. But I was proud of our fight tonight. We played pretty well. Offensively, we weren't great, but they're a tough defensive team."
On Saturday, the Tigers will host their annual Pacific Plays Pink game, as they welcome Cal Poly to the Alex. G. Spanos Center for a 4 p.m. tip. Fans are encouraged to wear pink, as the Tigers will forgo their traditional home whites and don pink uniforms in support of the fight against breast cancer. Pacific will hold a number of promotions benefiting the St. Joseph's Medical Center, and the breast cancer treatment and research program.