Gauchos blow out Long Beach in Big West opener

LONG BEACH – Not even a week off for a holiday break could cool off the UCSB women’s basketball team.

The Gauchos won for the seventh time in their past nine games, using a
23-7 run to open the second half and cruised to a 70-43 victory over
Long Beach State in the Big West opener for both teams on Thursday night
at the Walter Pyramid. The victory pushed the Gauchos over .500 for the
first time this season at 7-6.

Long Beach State falls to 2-12, 0-1.

Emilie Johnson had 14 points to lead four Gauchos in double figures as
Mekia Valentine had 13 points, Kelsey Adrian had 11 and Sweets Underwood
added 10.

UCSB, which had been shooting 45.9 percent from the floor in its past
eight games entering Thursday’s conference opener, shot 47.5 percent
while holding the 49ers to just 30.4 percent shooting.

“It’s a different mentality in conference,” said Emilie Johnson, who had
six rebounds and four assists. “We have to take these one at a time. Our
conference is really competitive. I feel like we’re focused and we’re
not overthinking each game.”

The Gauchos hit 6 of 11 three-pointers and outrebounded Long Beach 43-30
while also forcing 25 LBSU turnovers.

Margaret Johnson had a season-high tying six points and seven rebounds
while Underwood led the team with eight boards. Destini Mason had seven
points for the Gauchos off the bench.

The victory at the Pyramid exorcised the demons of a loss last year
where UCSB committed six turnovers in the final 4:35, leading to a 21-8
Long Beach run in a 65-62 victory.

This time, the Gauchos’ big run was the key.

Valentine’s 16-footer early in the second half gave UCSB a 38-28 lead,
pushing back into a double-digit advantage after the Gauchos took a
15-point lead with just over six minutes left in the first half.

A runner from Nicole Nesbit and another Valentine bucket pushed the
Gauchos’ lead to 47-28 with 13:09 left, part of a second-half opening
13-3 run that Long Beach finally ended on Courtney Jacob’s jumper with
13 minutes left.

UCSB extended its lead to 63-36 on a fastbreak layup by Destini Mason
with 6:31 to go.

UCSB returns home on Thursday, Jan. 6 for the first time since Dec. 11
when the Gauchos host UC Davis in the Thunderdome at 7 p.m.