Pacific Knocks Off Regular Season Co-Champ UCSB To Advance to Big West Women's Basketball Semis
The Pacific women's basketball team erased a 14-point deficit, closing the game on a 31-13 run to topple regular season co-champion UC Santa Barbara in the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament Tuesday at the Thunderdome.
Pacific held the Gauchos to four points in the final 10:12, as sophomore forwards Jordan Rogers (Sparks, Nev.) and Kendall Rodriguez (La Habra, Calif.) hit back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game at 45-45. Rogers then drove the baseline and got fouled, as her free throws gave Pacific its first lead of the game with just 25 seconds left. The Tigers defense picked up a stop on UCSB's final possession and Erica McKenzie (Sparks, Nev.) sealed with two free throws with seven seconds left.
Rodriguez paced the Tigers with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while McKenzie added 10 points and a career-high nine rebounds. Freshman forward Danielle Peacon (Sparks, Nev.) added 11 points and six rebounds to go with a pair of blocked shots.
The win was the Tigers first at the Thunderdome since Feb. 21, 1987 and snapped a 24-game losing streak against the Gauchos.
"I couldn't be prouder of my team," head coach Lynne Roberts said. "All year long, we've battled back and refused to quit and to pull out a win like this, and to snap a streak that long, says a lot about the character of this team."
The defensive struggle began with UCSB opening the game with a field goal two minutes in on a jumper from Angelei Aguirre. McKenzie answered with a jumper of her own as the two teams felt another out on the offensive side. Emilie Johnson hit a three-pointer which gave the Gauchos a 9-3 lead with 14:08 remaining in the half.
After a lay-up from Jennifer Fath (Carrollton, Texas), UCSB's Kelsey Adrian gave the Gauchos a 14-5 lead on a three-pointer, but Pacific responded with a three from Kendall Rodriguez (La Habra, Calif.) and a lay-up by Taryn Garza (Modesto, Calif.) in transition off a behind-the-back pass from McKenzie cut the deficit to four ant 14-10.
Jordan Rogers tallied a lay-up on the drive through the paint to cut the gap to 18-13 with 6:14 to go, but Pacific was whistled for an offensive foul on the next possession and Melissa Zornig drained a three-pointer in transition and the Tigers suddenly found themselves down 23-13.
The Tigers whittled the margin down to seven on a McKenzie lay-up, but Emilie Johnson hit a pull-up jumper to send UCSB into the break up 27-18.
Pacific was held to 27 percent shooting in the first half, and the Tigers forced just three Gaucho turnovers in the first half.
In the second half, the Gauchos stretched the margin to as many as 14 before the Tigers posted lay-ups from Danielle Peacon (Sparks, Nev.) and Gena Johnson (Elk Grove, Calif,) started an 8-0 Pacific run. Rodriguez drove the lane for a pair of points and then hit baseline jumper and Peacon struck again as the Tigers pulled within six at 39-33 with 11:41 to go. Mekia Valentine hit a jumper for the Gauchos with 10:13 remaining to restore an eight-point UCSB advantage.
After a free throw from McKenzie, Valentine tallied again as the Gauchos led by nine, 43-34 with 6:46 to go.
From there, Pacific closed on a 15-2 run, as Rodriguez scored a lay-up and Peacon knocked down a three-pointer to narrow the gap to four with 4:53 left. Aguirre banked home a jumper from the free throw line for a 45-39 Gaucho advantage, before Rogers knocked down a three-pointer form the corner with the shot clock winding down. The fade away with a hand in her face cut the deficit in half.
Then the Tigers forced a turnover in the lane on the Gauchos next possession and McKenzie found Rodriguez who knocked down a triple for the tie with 2:14 remaining.
Pacific got the stop on defense, but came up empty in their first attempt to take the lead, before Rogers drove the baseline and got to the free throw line with 25 seconds left.
The Tigers held UCSB leading scorer Emilie Johnson to just five points, on 2-of-11 shooting. Valentine turned in a double-double to lead the Gauchos.
The seventh-seeded Tigers will face top-seed Cal Poly in the re-seeded semifinals of the Big West Tournament on Friday at noon at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The regular season co-champion Cal Poly Mustangs topped eight-seeded Cal State Fullerton in their quarterfinal.