Portland shakes UCSB in OT

Sweets Underwood scored 15 points on Thursday.

The UCSB  women’s basketball team got a double-double from Mekia Valentine and saw sophomore forward Sweets Underwood pour in a career-high in points, but it was not enough as the Gauchos lost in overtime to Portland State, 69-66, on Thursday afternoon at the Thunderdome.

Emilie Johnson had an open look at a potential game-winning three-pointer as regulation expired, but the shot bounced off the back of the rim and sent the game to overtime.

That’s when Portland State (1-1 overall) was fortunate to get three quick fouls on Mekia Valentine – all within less than two-and-a-half minutes – fouling her out and used the newfound size advantage as a way to steal the win. Valentine finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Gauchos (0-3).

Valentine’s final foul came on the offensive end when she was establishing position and inadvertently clipped Portland State’s Shauneice Smith in the neck, which is now considered a flagrant foul per NCAA rules. Smith made one of the following two free throws for a 63-62 lead with 2:36 left in overtime.

“It is a little frustrating just because I am so much taller,” Valentine said after the game. “You’re always taught to take your space and keep your elbows out, so it’s hard. In the moment of getting the rebound it’s hard to control your body.”

Underwood made a layup on the other end for two of her career-best 15 points – she also had nine rebounds – to give UCSB a 64-63 lead with 2:02 to go. Consecutive buckets by the Vikings gave them a 67-64 lead before Underwood’s layup cut it to 67-66. A pair of free throws gave PSU the final margin as UCSB was unable to get a final look at a possible game-tying shot.

“In a one possession game, an overtime game, you can think about every play and every call and every opportunity,” UCSB head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We can throw all that away and just focus on the rebounds. We win this game if we don’t give up so many offensive rebounds.”

Emilie Johnson and Kelsey Adrian each had eight points while Angelei Aguirre had career-highs of six points and eight rebounds. UCSB pulled down 21 offensive boards, but it was Portland State’s 27 offensive rebounds that gave the Vikings 18 second-chance points and essentially the game.

Santa Barbara took a 12-point lead on Johnson’s layup in the first half, but the Vikings stormed back. A Courtney Van Brocklin layup, and a three-pointer by Karley Lampman eventually brought Portland State to within five at 31-26. The Gauchos led 33-31 at halftime as Lampman buried another three-pointer in the closing seconds of the first stanza.

Vikings head coach Sherri Murrell explained why her team was able to cut down the Gauchos lead.

“We changed our defense,” she said. “We went to zone and they started missing their long shots which we converted into some offense. We got our offense going out of transition so that was a big key.”

The Gauchos led for over nine straight minutes of the second half until Van Brocklin’s steal and coast-to-coast layup gave the Vikings a 49-48 lead with 8:46 to go. From there, the teams traded leads three times and had three more tie scores.

The Gauchos and the Vikings have now battled it out in five straight seasons, with Portland leading 3-2. Before this game the Vikings had never beat the Gauchos in the Thunderdome, which is why the win was especially exciting for the Portland team.

“It feels extremely good. I’ve had a lot of tears in this gym, so I love that it’s now joy and not tears,” said Murrell.

Though the Gauchos have started off their season 0-3, Gottlieb said that they have continued to improve in their first few games.

“I thought we were much better consistently across the board defensively than we were in our first two games,” she said. “We didn’t finish enough, obviously, but with the rebounds, that’s the stat that overrides every single other stat. We’ve got to get tougher and figure out how to make those plays when it’s crunch time, but I think we did a lot better overall.”

UCSB continues its homestand with a 2 p.m. game on Saturday vs. Idaho.

Additional reporting by Christine Howard

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