Mekia and Meagan manhandle Pacific in Gaucho romp

ANAHEIM – The Pacific Tigers were billed as the run-and-gun team, but the Gauchos were the team that ran away with the game.

Meagan Williams led the way with 24 points and Mekia Valentine had a near triple-double with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 blocks as UCSB defeated the Tigers 82-54 in this Big West Tournament first-round match up.  The lead was never less than 19 in the second half, and grew to as much as 30 as the Santa Barbara-heavy crowd cheered its Gauchos on to victory.

Pacific was led by Erica McKenzie with 13 points, and Jordan Rodgers with 10 points and 8 rebounds in a losing effort.

It was Valentine’s work under the bucket and on the defensive end that left the greatest lasting impression.  The junior altered nearly as many shots as she blocked, and found six of her 13 boards at the offensive end.

“She changes the game defensively more than any person in this conference,” said UCSB head coach Lindsay Gottlieb.  “It puts a lot of confidence into our players knowing that they have Mekia behind them.”

“It was a good game for me,” said Valentine, who shot 8 for 12 from the floor before sitting for a majority of the second half. “My teammates set me up to be successful.  It’s my first Big West, so I’m [expecting] to be here all four days.”

In lieu of a poor shooting performance from standout sophomore Emilie Johnson, the Gauchos broke the game open defensively, limiting the Pacific to 31% shooting overall, including 18% through the first 10 minutes of the ballgame.

Behind a streaking Williams, UCSB converted 11 Tiger turnovers into 13 fast break points.  The team also notched nine first-half blocks, seven of which came from Valentine.

UCSB took a 40-25 edge into intermission, and didn’t look back.

“I just thought they had way more poise than we did,” said Pacific coach Lynne Roberts.  “We don’t match up well with them. They’re significantly bigger than we are.”

[poll id=”26″]The Gauchos are peaking at the right time, riding a six-game win streak into the second round of the Big West Tournament.

“We think we’re capable of beating anyone in the conference,” Gottlieb said.

As the highest remaining seed, UCSB will face Long Beach State tomorrow.  Long Beach has beaten them twice this year, the latest coming by three points on February 13th, though the Gauchos led for much of the game.

“We owe them one,” said a smiling Williams.