The UC Santa Barbara women’s basketball team held on and came away with an important 44-42 win over Cal Poly, and moved past the Mustangs for the final spot in the Big West Tournament.
Now at 7-20 overall and 4-10 in Big West play, the Gauchos – at least for the time being – are the No. 8 seed. Cal Poly is 6-11 overall and 3-11 in conference with just two regular season games remaining.
“We kept defending, we got aggressive, we got to the free-throw line,” said head coach Bonnie Henrickson. ” It was ugly, it was muddy, but I’m proud of them for hanging in there and proud of them for handling what’s at stake.”
After entering the fourth quarter trailing 32-29, the Gauchos would close the game on a 15-8 run, scoring 10 points from the foul line. The Mustangs meanwhile went just 1-of-5 from the line for the night, all five attempts coming from forward Hana Vesela. With 1.2 seconds remaining, the junior came up empty on a pair of free throws which could have sent the game into overtime.
Moments earlier, forward Megan Ormiston – who had made a huge impact on the glass despite playing just 11 minutes – pulled away what appeared to be a game-clinching rebound with less than two seconds left, as Cal Poly guard Dye Stahley came up short on a potential go-ahead jumper from the left elbow. Stahley had brought the Mustangs within one point with a three-pointer just 45 seconds earlier.
After grabbing her team-leading ninth rebound of the game, Ormiston would score UCSB’s final point of the night from the line, putting her team up 44-42. However, after a Cal Poly timeout advanced the ball into the front court, Vesela would draw a foul on the ensuing inbounds, sending her to the line with just three tenths of a second coming off the clock. Her first free throw caromed off the back iron, but the second would take several tricky bounces before falling to junior Alicia Roufosse.
Roufosse’s last-second attempt from just a few feet away then glanced across the backboard as time ran out, giving UCSB its biggest win of the year.
“Often times, when it’s that ugly, it’s the team that gets frustrated and can’t score that just gives in and lets it happen,” Henrickon said. “The good thing is, when we were struggling on offense, we still defended. We’ve obviously got to improve offensively, but just proud of our toughness, our resilience, our resolve.”
Tal Sahar and Coco Miller tied for team-high honors with eight points apiece, despite going a combined 4-for-25 from the field. Natalia Bruening and Danae Miller scored seven each. Danae also added a game-high three steals on the defensive end.
This Saturday, the Gauchos will host third-place UC Riverside in their Senior Day home finale at 4:00 p.m. Depending on how the rest of the conference plays out, a fourth straight home win could potentially see UCSB clinch a Big West Tournament berth for the fourth straight year.