A case of the Willies finally shook UCSB loose from pesky UC Irvine in a Big West women’s basketball game Thursday night, January 10, at the Thunderdome.

Meagan Williams scored on a pair of putbacks, and Jessica Wilson followed with seven consecutive points down the stretch, as the Gauchos won their fourth straight game 76-68. They are 8-6 overall and 3-0 in the conference.

UCI (4-12, 0-3), which has lost eight in a row, appeared to be easy pickings early in the game. With junior center Kat Suderman scoring 12 points, UCSB roared out to a 28-13 lead. But the Anteaters went on a hot shooting spree and tied the score at 32-32. The Gauchos led 39-34 at halftime after Suderman scored her 14th point in the final seconds of the opening half.

“We might have thought it would be a cakewalk, but it wasn’t,” UCSB coach Mark French said. “Irvine has come back massively in every game.”

Despite giving up 28 turnovers – 18 of them on steals by the aggressive UCSB defense – the Anteaters would not go away. They tied the score 55-55 with five minutes remaining on a bucket by Stephanie Duda.

Sha’Rae Gibbons restored UCSB’s lead for good by hitting a 3-pointer from the corner. Williams, who snagged six of her game-high seven rebounds at the offensive end, muscled inside to put the Gauchos ahead 62-57. After a free throw by Duda, Wilson went on her spree to expand the lead to 69-58 with a minute and a half remaining. A flurry of 3-pointers by the Anteaters made the final margin closer.

Suderman finished with a game-high 16 points. Gibbons made five of six free throws down the stretch and scored 15. Wilson had 13 points, five rebounds and four steals, while Williams was productive across the stat line: Eight points, seven boards, four assists and three steals. Point guard Lauren Pederson had six assists.

UCI outshot the Gauchos, 58.7% to 44.1%, but UCSB got off 22 more shots, thanks to only 12 turnovers and a 35-28 rebounding advantage.

The Gaucho women will seek their fifth straight win at 2 p.m. Saturday against visiting Cal State Fullerton.

GAUCHO MEN FALL SHORT: UCSB mounted a furious rally, but UC Irvine held on to defeat the Gauchos 66-63 in a Big West men’s basketball game at the UCI’s Bren Center.

After the Anteaters took a 64-52 lead with under six minutes to play, UCSB forced six turnovers and scored 11 unanswered points, capped by D.J. Posley‘s 3-pointer that made the score 64-63 with 1:10 remaining.

Both teams missed opportunities in the next minute. The Gauchos had a chance for the last shot, but Alex Harris turned the ball over, and UCI’s Patrick Sanders made two free throws with less than a second remaining. Sanders led the Anteaters (6-9, 1-1) with 16 points, while Harris scored 15 for the Gauchos (12-4, 1-2).

ROCHESTIE ON A ROLL: Montecito’s Taylor Rochestie helped fourth-ranked Washington State pass its first test in Los Angeles, scoring 12 points Thursday night as the Cougars clawed their way past USC 73-58 in Pac-10 basketball. Rochestie, a 6’1″ junior out of Santa Barbara High, also notched a game-high seven assists. WSU’s three guards had 16 assists and just three turnovers against the Trojans.

Next up for the Cougars (14-0) is fifth-ranked UCLA at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.


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