WBK: Gauchos fall short at Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Nicole Nesbit’s game-high 23 points were not enough to down Utah on the road, as UCSB concluded nonconference play with a 66-57 loss on Monday night.

Santa Barbara’s record falls to 5-8, while Utah extends its winning streak to five games in moving to 7-4.

“We played tough tonight,” UCSB Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “We fought for every rebound and we were able to get points off forced turnovers on the defensive end.”

Overall, UCSB forced 19 Utah turnovers and cashed in with 19 points on the other end, while Utah only found seven points off UCSB’s nine turnovers.

Nesbit led the team with four steals, two of which she picked up in a span of just 17 seconds.

With 7:02 left in the first half, Nesbit disrupted Cheyenne Wilson’s dribble and dove for the loose ball to record the swipe. UCSB did not put up points after that turnover, but Nesbit was not done.

On the ensuing Utah possession, the senior picked off a pass from Ciera Dunbar and finished the job herself by going coast-to-coast for the basket.

Nesbit has scored 20-plus points in consecutive games for the second time this season.

UCSB trailed by six after that play, and concluded the first half with a Mi’Chael Wright lay up which moved the score to 33-28.

The Gauchos kept the rebound battle tight and finished with the same mark of 38 with Utah. UCSB pulled down a game-high 18 offensive boards and registered 12 points off those second chance looks.

Clair Watkins made her first Gaucho start and registered a team-high eight rebounds for the second consecutive game. The forward also contributed six points.

UCSB entered second half play facing a five-point deficit and denied Utah the chance to break away.

Onome Jemerigbe opened the final 20 minutes with a physical drive to the basket, which led to a three-point play. On the following UCSB possession, the freshman again slashed through the right side of the key and made her way to the free throw line where she sunk both shots, putting her team within two.

Utah was able to protect its narrow lead for the next eight minutes of play before Nesbit tied the game at 45-45 after finishing on a hard lay up in the paint.
UCSB gained the led for the first time in the game just on the next possession when Destini Mason picked off a Utah pass and found Nesbit for the lead changing jumper. The Gauchos gained the 47-45 after that shot with 9:11 remaining.

It would be UCSB’s largest lead of the game.

Just two minutes later, Cierra Dunbar connected on a long look for two and put her team back on top. A Utah block on the defensive end led to a Cheyenne Wilson go-ahead lay up.

The Utes were able to close out the game with that lead.

The Gauchos will return to game action on Jan. 11 when they visit defending Big West Champs Cal Poly to open conference play.