Anaheim, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara experienced their best shooting day of the season as the Pacific women's basketball team fell to the Gauchos, 84-66, in a Big West Tournament semifinal game Friday, Mar. 9, at the Honda Center.
Junior guard Erica McKenzie paced the Tigers with 17 points, hitting seven of her 13 shots. Sophomore guard Gena Johnson added 15 points while junior Kendall Rodriguez chipped in 12. Freshman forward Kendall Kenyon just missed her sixth double-double of the year, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds.
Both teams struggled out of the gate, shooting a combined 0-of-7 in the first three minutes with four combined turnovers. After a Gaucho triple, Pacific (17-13) answered with a 7-0 run, sparked by a jumper from Kenyon and a three-point play from Rodriguez. After Kenyon converted lay-up, UC Santa Barbara (16-15) tied the game at 7-7 with consecutive jumpers at the 14:12 mark.
The Tigers would go back on top by five, 12-7, with 11:31 left after a three-point play from Gena Johnson and a pair of free throws from junior guard Ashley Wakefield. UCSB would tie the game at 15-15 at the 8:19 mark before taking its first lead since the early going on a lay-up from Melissa Zorning with 6:53 remaining.
Pacific managed to tie the game, 21-21, at the 5:23 mark, but the Gauchos respond with a 12-2 run over the next three-plus minutes, taking a ten-point lead with 1:46 left to play. Gena Johnson converted a three-point play with 1:28 remaining, but UCSB would take a 37-28 lead into halftime on a late lay-up from Zorning.
The Tigers opened the second frame on a 5-0 run, trimming the Gauchos' lead to five, 37-33, with 17:56 remaining. UCSB would go back on top by 10, 46-36, with 13:24 left, before taking its largest lead of the contest, 55-43, on a triple from Zorning at the 9:43 mark.
Rodriguez converted a second-chance lay-up to pull Pacific back to within nine, 61-52, with 6:55 remaining. After forcing a turnover, the Tigers were whistled for an offensive foul that the Gauchos promptly turned into two points, regaining a double-digit lead. Pacific would continue to fight, pulling to within eight multiple times, but UCSB had an answer for each Tiger rally. The Gauchos closed the game on a 16-6 run, due in large part to Pacific fouling down the stretch.
UC Santa Barbara had three players hit for 20 or more points, led by Zornig's 23. As a team, the Gauchos shot 54-percent from the field, their best shooting performance of the season.
While the loss puts a sour taste in the Tigers' mouths, the season was one for the record books. Pacific had not won 17 games in a season since 2001-02, and the nine league wins were the most since 2007-08. Pacific will now wait to find out if it will receive a bid to the WNIT or another postseason tournament.