Johnson leads the way for UCSB women

Emilie Johnson continued her hot shooting, Mekia Valentine was strong in the paint and Kelsey Adrian warmed up in the second half as the three helped lead UCSB’s women’s basketball team past UC Irvine, 70-56, on Thursday night in the Thunderdome.

Johnson, the reigning Big West Player of the Week, scored a team-high 17 points after pouring in a combined 55 in two games last week. The junior scored 15 of her points in the first half.

Valentine and Adrian combined for 22 second-half points as the Gauchos (13-10 overall, 7-4 in Big West) pulled away from UC Irvine (13-10, 5-6) for their 10th straight win over the Anteaters.

It didn’t help UCI that star forward Mikah Maly-Karros did not make the trip to the Central Coast along with her teammates. However, that didn’t stop the feisty Anteaters from giving UCSB a tough game.

Jade Smith-Williams, the conference’s third-leading scorer, led UCI with 19 points and Tayler Champion added 14, but clearly a void was left without Maly-Karros, who is averaging 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

“We prepped all week to defend (Mikah-Karros),” UCSB head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “Our players and coaches had to quickly change mindsets. I knew the rest of them would come out fired up.”

Valentine, though, still had a tough defender in center Kim Barnes. However the Gaucho senior was able to use some of her athleticism in the second half as she finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.

Adrian scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half, hitting double figures in scoring for the second straight game. Melissa Zornig had nine points and six assists off the bench and Sweets Underwood had six points and three boards.

After Jade Smith-Williams hit a three-pointer to break a 14-14 tie, UCSB scored six straight points to take a lead it would never relinquish. The Gauchos led 32-27 at the half.

UCI kept things within single digits for part of the second half, even closing to 45-42 with 9:46 remaining. But, a quick 11-1 spurt by the Gauchos dashed any hopes the Anteaters had of pulling an upset.

Santa Barbara concludes its homestand on Saturday with a 2 p.m. game vs. UC Riverside.