LONG BEACH — For the second time this season, the UCSB women’s basketball team pushed the conference leaders to the final buzzer, and for the second time the Gauchos came up short against Long Beach State, falling 66-63 at Walter Pyramid on Thursday.
Despite a disastrous third quarter in which UCSB watched a double-digit lead all but vanish, the Gauchos nearly rescued themselves, with only a missed buzzer-beater separating them and overtime.
The Gauchos fall to 11-6 in Big West play and 18-9 overall, to 15-2 and 20-7 for The Beach.
Everything was coming up Gauchos in the first half, with UCSB running out to a 14-2 lead in the game’s first four minutes. Coming off Monday night’s 6-for-13 3-point shooting performance, UCSB let fly from downtown early and often, shooting nine 3s in the opening frame and making three of them.
Leading 19-12 after 10 minutes, the Gauchos completely seized control of the game in the second quarter, with their defense stepping up to match the offensive performance. UCSB held Long Beach State to nine points on 2-11 shooting in the second frame, while their offense poured on 20 points, including an 11-0 run to start the quarter.
The Gauchos led by 18 at halftime after shooting 13-for-28 from the field, 4-for-11 from behind the arc, and a perfect 9-for-9 from the free throw line in the first 20 minutes.
Alyssa Marin scored all 15 of her points in the first half to lead all scorers, and it looked like UCSB would keep cruising, as they grew their lead to 20 on the first possession out of the break.
Unfortunately, that lead soon began to shrink. The Beach scored 23 points and held the Gauchos to eight in the third quarter, shrinking the UCSB lead to three. The hosts took the lead to start the fourth and never relinquished it, despite the Gauchos’ best efforts.
Tucker and Anya Choice each hit key 3-pointers to keep it a one-possession game in the final five minutes, with Alexis Tucker scoring 13 points in the quarter, never letting the Beach lead by more than five.
With UCSB down by that number with seven seconds left, Tucker grabbed her own rebound for a put-back layup to cut the lead to three, then Alexis Whitfield forced a turnover on the ensuing Long Beach State inbound, setting up a chance to tie the game.
Marin’s deep three-point attempt had the distance but not the accuracy.
Ila Lane added 11 points of her own and grabbed 10 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season, which is twice as many as the next leading Big West player. The senior from Moraga also moved within two rebounds of fifth place on UCSB’s all-time career rebounds list Thursday night.
The Gauchos host UC San Diego Saturday for Senior Night, with a 4 p.m. start.