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College Basketball

UCSB Women Step Up in 4th Quarter, Win Big West Tourney Opener

IRVINE – With just a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, UC Santa Barbara hit its stride when it counted most and blew out UC Irvine 62-43 in the first round of the Big West Tournament.

It was the Gauchos' first win in the conference tournament since 2013.

"After missing the tournament last year, it feels good to be here now," senior Jasmine Ware said. "As a team, we put in a lot of work in over the summer and the spring both on and off the court, so it's a great feeling to be back."

UCSB led the Anteaters 36-34 at the end of the third quarter, but were held under 40 percent shooting. Though not dominant early on, the Gauchos' defense still held UC Irvine to just 29.8 percent shooting, highlighted by their second quarter effort when they only allowed three UCI field goals.

"We weren't disruptive in the first three quarters like we were in the fourth," UCSB Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "Finally we were able to get some offense from our defense, which is what made the biggest difference for us in the final quarter."

The Gauchos (12-19, 9-8) picked up eight steals in the game, including one from Jasmine Ware with 7:22 left remaining, which played a part in UCSB's 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter. Ware finished that play with a lay up, which added to her 14-point performance.

While UCSB struggled to breakaway from the Anteaters in the second half, Je Zhé Newton kept the UC Irvine defenders occupied, as she finished with a team high eight points in the first half after shooting 3-4 from the floor. The center finished the game as the team's leading scorer with 16 points, as she also recorded her third double-double as a Gaucho with 10 rebounds.

The Anteaters (4-27, 1-16) were able to keep things interesting through the first three quarters, as they scored 13 points off 14 UCSB turnovers. Conversely, the Gauchos came up with just one point from nine UCI turnovers during that same span.

But after 30 minutes of turnover-prone basketball, UCSB would find its rhythm starting from its first possession of the fourth quarter, as they opened the period on a 10-0 run. Onome Jemerigbe got the scoring started with a lay up after a hard attack to the basket and she went on to dish out two assists to finish the run. Overall, the junior finished with 11 points and six assists.

Following the point guard's lead, Makala Roper drove through the lane as well, earning a trip to the free throw line where she made both shots.

Ware then finished the run with six straight points of her own. The senior first knocked down a midrange jumper after receiving an inbounds pass from Jemerigbe. She later hit a midrange shot from the right side, set up again by Jemerigbe, as she completed the run with a lay up following a two-on-one fast break opportunity she created with a mid-court steal.

After the first 2:41 of the fourth went by, the Gauchos had claimed their then largest lead of the night at 46-34. It would be an edge UCSB would never give up, as the team went on to outscore the Anteaters 16-9 down the stretch.

With the win, the Gauchos advance to Wednesday night's quarterfinals when they will play fourth-seeded UC Davis (17-12, 10-6), who they went 1-1 against in the regular season. The game has a projected tip-off time of 8:30 p.m. or 30 minutes after the 6 o'clock game ends. The game will be on ESPN3 and will also feature an audio broadcast and live stats.

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