Valentine guides Gauchos to share of Big West crown

SAN LUIS OBISPO – Over the course of her career, Mekia Valentine has built up quite the resume – a triple-double, averaging a double-double, the school record for blocked shots in a season and a school record for field goal percentage.

But, on Saturday, Valentine might have had the best game of her life.

Leading a troupe of impressive performers, Valentine had 27 points, 20 rebounds and five blocked shots as UCSB crushed Cal Poly in the second half to secure a co-Big West regular season title in a 78-64 victory at
Mott Gym.

UCSB earned its 14th Big West title and will head into next week’s Big West Tournament next week as the No. 2 seed. The Mustangs (16-11 overall, 12-4 in the Big West) are the No. 1 seed based on tiebreakers. The Gauchos, winners of seven in a row, will face Pacific in the first round of the conference tournament on Tuesday at the Thunderdome at 7 p.m.

Valentine, who thrust herself into the mix for the Big West Player of the Year award with her performance, finished 11-of-13 from the field and nearly had the rare feat of having double-doubles in each half.

She finished the first half with 15 points and nine boards and had 12 points and 11 rebounds in the second half. No play better illustrated her performance than midway through the second half when she grabbed a
defensive rebound and passed the ball as she was falling to the ground. Tardy getting to the offensive end, she skied for a rebound and in one motion, grabbed it, and laid the ball back in with her left hand. That gave UCSB a 59-48 lead with 9:01 to play.

When UCSB was faced with its most important 20 minutes of basketball this season – entering the second half of Saturday’s game leading by a point – the Gauchos responded. Santa Barbara shot 57.1% from the field in the second half and held Cal Poly to a 40% clip.

Bothered by a hounding defense all game, Cal Poly’s best scorer – Rachel Clancy, who entered the game second in the Big West in scoring at nearly 17 points per game – finished with just seven points on 3 of 13 shooting.

Kelsey Adrian was given the assignment of stopping Clancy, and she held the senior to 0 first-half points. But, the Gauchos’ junior also finished with 17 points, knocking down three 3-pointers. Emilie Johnson had 18 points and four assists.

Tickets to Tuesday’s Big West Tournament opener at home against Pacific are available by calling (805) 893-UCSB (8272) or online at


  1. GO GAUCHOS!!!!