Jessica Wilson scored 19 points and hauled in 12 rebounds to lead UCSB to a 73-61 victory over UC Riverside at the Thunderdome on Thursday. Wilson became the 22nd Gaucho to score 1,000 points for her career as UCSB snapped a five-game losing streak against the Highlanders.
Facing its toughest test yet in league play, UCSB defeated the defending Big West Conference champions for the first time since Jan. 2, 2006, in the process improving to 13-6 overall and a perfect 8-0 in league play. The Gauchos, who have won nine consecutive games, now hold a two-game lead in the Big West standings.
Riverside falls to 5-2 in league after losing two of its last three and now stands at 7-11 overall.
Wilson has been leading the charge during the Gauchos’ nine-game unbeaten streak and came up with another big performance against the team that has claimed the Big West’s last two berths in the NCAA Tournament. The senior guard was six-of-13 from the field, including two-of-four from the three-point line, to lead three Gauchos in double figures. Her team-high 12 rebounds is a season a high.
Wilson has now recorded a double-double in three of UCSB’s last five games and has a total of 11 for her career. She scored her 1,000th-career point on a breakaway layup with 2:38 remaining in the second half but came away limping on the play. She would return to score the game’s final basket — stealing a pass from the Highlanders’ Chanel Foster and taking it all the way to the rim — to cap off the impressive victory.
“Its great to reach 1,000 points, but I’m more impressed with the way we played and that we got the win,” Wilson said. “I thought we played great defensively and kept Riverside off the offensive glass, and that was really the key. I definitely couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
UC Riverside scored the first six points of the game, but that would prove to be its biggest advantage all evening. UCSB responded with eight-straight points to take an 8-6 lead with 14:01 remaining following a three-point play by Wilson. Brittany Waddell knocked down a triple to give Riverside the advantage once more and the Highlanders led by as many as five points over the next 11 minutes.
Tainoisouti Lott’s jumper with 2:41 left gave Riverside a 28-24 lead, but Lauren Pedersen knocked down a long two, Meagan Williams and Jordan Franey scored inside, and Kat Suderman sank two free-throws to cap off an 8-0 Gaucho run to close the half. UCSB went into the locker room leading 32-28.
Ashlee Brown hit back-to-back baskets and Suderman followed with a layup as UCSB took a 38-29 lead 3:43 into the second half.
The Highlanders cut the deficit to three (40-37) after two Seyram Gbewonyo free throws with 14:25 left, but the Gauchos responded with a 14-8 spurt over the next 9:23 to take a 54-45 lead with 5:02 remaining.
After UCR was able to battle back to within four (54-50), UCSB responded, getting a pair of free throws from Franey and a big triple from Wilson to push it back to nine at 59-50 with 3:25 left. Wilson’s milestone layup 47 seconds later gave the Gauchos an 11-point cushion.
Suderman added 13 points and nine rebounds for UCSB, while Sha’Rae Gibbons chipped in with 10.
UCSB outscored Riverside 41-33 in the second half and improved to 11-0 when leading at intermission this season.
Lott led all scorers with a career-best 27 points, finishing 11-for-17 from the floor. The junior forward also finished with 11 rebounds. Gbewonyo added 14 points for the Highlanders.
UCSB hits the road next week to take on Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine, and the Gauchos will be seeking their first 10-0 start to conference play since the 2001-02 season. UCSB squares off with Fullerton at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 and with Irvine at 2 p.m. Feb. 9.
Ryan Hall is UCSB‘s assistant media relations director.