WBK: Gauchos overcome by Highlanders

– Makala Roper led UCSB to its most prolific scoring performance of the season, but it was not enough as UC Riverside out-dueled the Gauchos in the 89-74 decision on Thursday night.

UCSB’s season record falls to 0-17, while the team is now 0-4 in the Big West. With the win, the Highlanders remain undefeated at home in conference play as they improve to 11-8 overall and 2-3 in league.

“I’m proud with the way our team competed in the second half,” UCSB Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “We limited our turnovers after committing 12 in the first, and we went on some nice runs. But you need to play a full game to get a win at this level.”

UCSB outscored Riverside in the second half 48-44 and turned the ball over only four times.

Roper shot an efficient 9-13 from the field and was 5-8 from the three-point line en route to scoring a career-high 23 points. Behind her were Kristine Brance and Onome Jemerigbe who scored 12 and 10 points, respectively. Jemerigbe also paced the floor with eight assists, falling one shy of tying a career-best.

In trailing by 19 at the start of the second half, UCSB kept feeling the pressure from the Highlanders who scored eight points through the first two and a half minutes to bolster their lead to 53-32. However, the Gauchos gained some momentum after Jemerigbe made a long two from the top of the key with 16:14 left in the game.

The jumper ignited a 13-4 UCSB run — which included five points from Roper — and positioned the Gauchos within 14 points of the Highlanders at the 13:26 mark.

Five minutes later, Roper hit a three to cut the UCR lead down to single digits for the first time since the first half, but the Highlanders regained a 14-point advantage behind sharp cuts to the basket from Michelle Curry and Dynese Adams.

UCSB would come as close as seven points thanks in part to Taylor Farris who picked up two of her five assists on back-to-back scoring possessions to make the score 75-68.

With time running out, the Gauchos looked to their sharp shooting freshman to pull them back into contention and Roper answered the call in scoring two three-pointers over the span of 25 seconds.

“When we were recruiting her, we noticed how calm she ways no matter what was happening in the game,” Mitchell said. “She has ice water in her veins and she showed it tonight.”

Despite the big shots, though, the Gauchos were forced to foul on the other side of the court, and Riverside sunk 10 free throws in the final two minutes to close out the win.

UC Riverside owned the first half thanks to lights out shooting from Brittany Crain, as the team garnered a 45-26 lead going into halftime. Crain finished the half with 19 points, including a triple from the top of the key as time expired. She went 7-11 in the half with five three-pointers, but the Gauchos limited her to just 10 points in the final 20 minutes.

The Gauchos will continue their season on the road at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday starting at 6 p.m. The game will be featured on Big West TV and will also have an audio broadcast carried on UCSBgauchos.com