Gauchos can’t contain McCalister, Anteaters; win streak snapped

IRVINE – UC Irvine senior Kassandra McCalister torched UCSB for a career-high 36 points and handed out five assists to lead the Anteaters to a 72-65 win over the Gauchos on Saturday night at the Bren Events Center.

UCSB had its three-game winning streak snapped and falls to 11-14 overall and 5-7 in the Big West. UC Irvine improves to 12-14, 8-6.

McCalister, who previously scored 21 points in the Anteaters’ win in the Thunderdome, went on a 9-0 run by herself in the second half to turn the game around.

Kirsten Tilleman’s basket with 4:43 left gave UCSB a 58-57 lead, the Gauchos’ first since midway through the first half. McCalister then scored the next nine points to put the Anteaters back control.

The Gauchos seemed to be their own worst enemy for much of the night as the team committed 18 turnovers, leading to 27 UCI points. Santa Barbara shot 49.0% from the floor to keep countering its turnovers.

McCalister was 15 of 16 from the free-throw line and buried five three-pointers. Her 36 points was the most by a Gaucho opponent since Oregon State’s Felicia Ragland had 36 against in January, 2002. Ironically, McCalister transferred from Oregon State to UC Irvine.

UCSB took a 12-7 early on, but McCalister heated up and went on an 8-0 run to swing the game back in UCI’s favor. Destini Mason knocked down a 17-foot jumper from the left side near the end of the first half to bring the Gauchos to 34-32, but she was called for a technical foul.

McCalister hit both free throws and Kelly Meggs nailed a 3-pointer — one of 12 by Irvine on the night — to create a five-point swing.

The Gauchos went on a 17-4 run midway through the second half to take a one-point lead with just under five minutes remaining, but McCalister took over and finished off the Gauchos.

UCSB will host Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State in its final two home games of the season next week.