UCSB women crush Cal Poly on Senior Day

Senior day at the Thunderdome ended as it should – with the UC Santa Barbara senior quintet being saluted, smiles on each of their faces, a win in their final home game and a standing ovation from the crowd.

UCSB enjoyed perhaps its most complete game of the season, routing rival Cal Poly, 85-70, on Saturday afternoon and sending off the senior class with a huge win in their final home appearance. The Gauchos improve to 11-16 overall and 8-7 in the Big West while the Mustangs fall to 17-10, 10-5.

Cal Poly entered the game fighting for first place in the Big West, but the Gauchos demolished them which counts for UCSB’s third straight victory – its longest winning streak of the season. The 85 points also count as the highest point total by the Gauchos this year as four players scored in double digits.

Keeping up her torrid pace was point guard Emilie Johnson, who followed up a 21-point performance on Wednesday, with 27 on Saturday, while dishing out a career-high eight assists. Meagan Williams had 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Mekia Valentine had 12 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks and Ariana Gnekow added 11 points.

It didn’t start out so rosy for Santa Barbara, though.

The Mustangs jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the game’s first 1:57 before Johnson hit one of her five 3-pointers of the day, helping turn the tide. UCSB finished the half on a 42-19 run, highlighted by 20 first-half points from Johnson.

Poly couldn’t recover, never getting closer than 12 points the rest of the afternoon.

Obviously the Gauchos were playing with high spirits, saying farewell to Jordan Franey, Ariana Gnekow, Jessie Goble, Chris Spencer and Meagan Williams, but head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said “I thought we did a great job today of channeling all of our emotions into great basketball.”

Late in the game, Gottlieb made sure all five seniors were on the floor together at once, then subbed them all out together, so they could all soak in one final standing ovation from the season-high crowd of 2,217.

Yet another reason to celebrate was that UCSB moved to one game over .500 in conference play for the first time since starting 1-0 with a win over UC Irvine, the Gauchos’ next opponent. UCSB will play the Anteaters on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Irvine’s Bren Events Center.

Saturday’s victory over Cal Poly also gave UCSB one more point in the Blue-Green Rivalry series and it saw Barb Beainy honored as the fifth “Legend of the ‘Dome.”