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Gauchos Battle Back for 59-58 OT Win

UCSB erases 10-point deficit as second half winds down, then steals victory from Fullerton in overtime.

Trailing 46-36 with 5:37 remaining, UCSB scored 12 unanswered points to take its first lead of the game and went on to defeat visiting Cal State Fullerton, 59-58, in overtime Saturday. Jessica Wilson led the charge, scoring 11 of her 17 points during the final four minutes of regulation and in the overtime period.

The Gauchos have now won five straight to improve to 9-6 overall and remain perfect in Big West Conference play at 4-0. UCSB has dominated the series with Fullerton (2-12, 1-2), winning the previous 29 meetings.

UCSB has made a habit of treating Thunderdome fans to thrilling comeback victories this season and Saturday’s win was no different.

After Fullerton took its biggest lead of 10 points (46-36) on a jumper by Daviyonn Weathersby with 5:37 on the clock, Sha’Rae Gibbons knocked down a three to start the Gauchos’ run. Wilson hit a pair of free throws on UCSB’s next possession, Ashlee Brown scored inside, and Wilson followed with a three-point play — scoring in the paint after a big steal by Lauren Pedersen — to tie the game at 46. Pedersen hit two at the line 22 seconds later and, just like that, UCSB took its first lead of the afternoon, 48-46, with 1:35 left to play.

But the Titans kept their composure after blowing the big lead and Jasmine Scott answered with a midrange jumper to knot the game at 48 the next time down. The Gauchos came up empty on the ensuing possession and Toni Thomas hit a pair of free throw to give Fullerton a 50-48 lead with 35 seconds remaining.

After a Fullerton timeout, Pedersen found Kat Suderman in excellent position on the block and she calmly turned and kissed a shot off the glass to tie the game at 50 with 17 seconds left on the clock.

Whitney Warren then came up with a big steal with two seconds remaining to deny the Titans any chance of winning it in regulation and the game went to overtime.

At that point Wilson took over, giving the Gauchos the lead for good when she sank two more free throws 50 seconds into the extra session. UCSB later held its biggest advantage of the afternoon, 55-51, after she dribbled through the key and converted a running jumper.

UCSB led 59-55 after two Suderman free throws and the Titans’ Lauren Chow knocked down a long three as time expired for the final 59-58 margin.

Wilson scored six of the Gauchos’ nine points in overtime and finished with a team-high 17 for the game. She also led the squad with 11 rebounds, six of which came in the final five minutes. The double-double was her second this season and the ninth of her career.

Suderman reached double figures for the fifth-straight game, tallying 14 points on six-for-15 shooting in a career-high 33 minutes.

Thomas was excellent for Fullerton in the loss, leading all scorers with 24 points, while pulling down a game-high 16 rebounds. The 2006-07 Big West scoring champion, Thomas finished eight-of-13 from the field, including two-of-four from behind the arc.

“It certainly wasn’t out best performance of the year and you really have to credit Fullerton for that,” UCSB coach Mark French said. “They played extremely hard and extremely well and gave us a lot of trouble for most of the game.

“The key for us is to figure out how to play like we did in the last five minutes of regulation for a full 40 minutes. We won’t meet our potential if we become the type of team that believes it can just turn it on whenever it needs to. Good teams turn it on when they step on the court and never turn it off.”

UCSB has six days off to prepare for Cal Poly next weekend. The Gauchos will square off with the Mustangs, also unbeaten in conference play, at 4 p.m. Saturday in Mott Gym.

Ryan Hall is UCSB‘s assistant media relations director.

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