Cal Poly was eyeing an upset over the UCSB women’s basketball team late in the fourth quarter, cutting the Gauchos’ lead to just one.
But in the end, Santa Barbara made the clutch shots — and free throws — necessary to take home its fourth straight win over Cal Poly in the Blue-Green rivalry, closing out the Mustangs 65-59 at the Thunderdome on Saturday.
The Gauchos improve to 9-4 overall and 2-1 in Big West play, while Cal Poly falls to 4-8 and 1-3 in conference.
Junior guard Anya Choice led her team in scoring for the second straight game, recording a season high 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Choice added three assists as well.
UCSB coach Bonnie Henrickson said Cal Poly’s defense, like other teams have tried to adopt, were leaving one player open instead looking to double down in the paint.
Her message: Make them pay.
“I liked that (Anya) knocked down the three in the corner because of what happened at UC San Diego, and (Cal Poly) started doing here. They said, ‘We’re gonna pick one person not to guard,’” Henrickson said.
“We told her if someone isn’t going to guard you, you got to score 40 — ‘Like what do you mean you aren’t going to guard Anya…’ We just told her to stay aggressive because she’s good off the dribble. She can pass, get to the rim, so we like that.”
Senior center Ila Lane also had stretches of dominance, tallying 11 points and 10 rebounds to record her conference-leading fifth double-double of the season, and her first since November.
“We know she has another gear and she’ll get there. Nobody is more frustrated than she is when she misses a couple near the rim, but we are patient. She will get there,” Henrickson said.
Both point guards, Callie Cooper and Alyssa Marin, each finished with four assists, with the former also knocking down a three and committing no turnovers. Marin, meanwhile, finished with seven points and a pair of clutch steals, including one down the stretch.
It was a slow start for the Gauchos as they trailed 6-2 with the offense committing three turnovers in the first 4 1/2 minutes.
Cooper came in and immediately the ball moved a bit better, and players got open. That helped the Gauchos go on a 10-2 run and take a 12-8 lead.
Cal Poly would respond with a 6-0 run, but a Jessica Grant floater off the backboard tied the score at 14-all to end the first quarter.
In the second frame, the Gauchos opened up a 24-12 lead behind 50% shooting from the field (8-for-16), 66.7% shooting from deep (2-for-3) and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.
UCSB’s defense held Cal Poly to 35.7% shooting from the field and 0% shooting from deep on six attempts.
“We have to be more aggressive, that’s where we made our run. Everything was to the rim, aggressive,” Henrickson said.
In the second half, UCSB shot just 31% from the field and committed 10 turnovers, helping the Mustangs stay alive.
With under five minutes remaining in the contest, a Cal Poly bucket cut the lead to one. A clutch layup from Marin help extend the lead back out to three.
Marin then came up with her second steal of the contest, and the Gauchos cashed in with Choice burying a three-pointer.
From there, UCSB’s lead would never go below four again. The Gauchos made 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to close out the Mustangs.
“We’ve shot it well in those situations designed by who’s going to be the first option,” said Henrickson. “The good thing for us is we’ve got a lot of players that shoot really well, so there’s plenty of players you can get it to and that gives you confidence.”
UCSB will host Cal State Bakersfield Wednesday at 7 p.m.