Big 2nd half sparks Gauchos past Long Beach St.

The way UCSB played in the second half, you’d never have guessed that the majority of the group was terribly ill all week.

And, with the performance the Gauchos had in the final 20 minutes, it no doubt left Long Beach State feeling sick.

Down by eight at halftime, the Gauchos shot 51.7% in the second half and ran over the 49ers to grab their fifth victory in a row, 74-70, on Thursday night in the Thunderdome.

The victory clinches a first-round home game in the Big West Tournament on Tuesday, March 8.

The performance must have been inspired by former Gaucho star Kristen Mann, who was in the house as she was honored as a “Legend of the ‘Dome.”

Kelsey Adrian tied her career-high with 17 points and no six seemed bigger than her pair of three-pointers she buried in a 29-second span that tied the game at 61-apiece.

From that point, it appeared that Long Beach was gassed and the Gauchos were the ones who were fit and healthy.

Sweets Underwood, one of the hardest hit by the illness surrounding the team, had one of her best games of the year with 15 points and 10 rebounds. The sophomore scored the team’s final six points and played a huge relief role as starting center Mekia Valentine battled foul trouble and the flu bug.

After Adrian’s treys, the Gauchos went up 66-61, but Courtney Jacob kept the 49ers in it.

Jacob, the 49ers’ leading scorer, scored seven of her 17 points in the final 2:56, but her baby hook shot with her team trailing 72-70 and six seconds left rimmed off and Underwood grabbed the board.

Underwood then hit two free throws to ice the game and give UCSB its eighth win in the past 10 games.

Emilie Johnson had 17 points, leaving her six points shy of 1,000 for her career, and Nicole Nesbit had 10 points and six assists.

Santa Barbara still trails Cal Poly – 78-58 winners over Cal State Fullerton – by one game in the Big West standings. The Blue-Green rivals face off on March 5 in the final regular-season game of the season.

UCSB hosts Cal State Northridge on Saturday at 2 p.m. when it will honor its seniors, Margaret Johnson and Mekia Valentine before the game.