WBK: UCSB holds late lead, falls to Fullerton

FULLERTON, Calif. – In a game that featured eight lead changes and five ties, UCSB came up short in a see-saw that battle that ended with Cal State Fullerton on top 54-50 at Titan Gym.

The Gauchos fall to 0-4 in conference play and 0-17 overall, while Fullerton evens its season mark to 9-9 with the win and is now 3-2 against Big West opponents.

“We haven’t been in this position before,” UCSB Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said in regards to the Gauchos holding the lead late in the game. “We don’t have the experience there yet and we gave up a lot of points around the basket. We missed some opportunities down the stretch, but it was good to see Kristine [Brance] hit a three at a crucial time.”

When the Gauchos were trailing by six with one minute to go, Brance knocked down the clutch three-pointer from the right corner to make it a one-possession game and kept UCSB alive at 51-48. That triple capped off a career outing for Brance who scored a personal best 15 points in netting six field goals including three from downtown.

On the other side of the floor, the Gauchos forced a missed lay up and had the chance to move within one point. Moving the ball quickly in transition, Onome Jemerigbe pulled up for two at the top of the key but came up short, as Fullerton was able to get the rebound and went on to seal the win with three free throws in the final 26 seconds.

Following Brance’s 15 points was Clair Watkins who scored 10. In her two career games at Titan Gym, Watkins has now scored 10 both times. Jemerigbe added nine points and also dished out five assists, maintaining her conference season average. Leading the Gauchos on the boards was Jasmine Ware who pulled down a season high seven rebounds, while Kendra Morrison reeled in six (also a season best).

The Gauchos secured a 24-22 lead heading into the break, as they feasted on 14 Titan turnovers that they cashed in for 10 points. In fact, UCSB’s first scoring opportunity started with a steal by Makala Roper who stripped Tailer Butler of the ball. While Jemerigbe missed her transition lay up, but Mi’Chael Wright was there for the putback lay up.

The Titans remained ahead until the 10:59 mark when Jemerigbe knocked down a midrage jumper from the wing to make it 8-7 Gauchos.

Though Fullerton was quick to respond and reclaimed the lead at 15-12, Jemerigbe resparked UCSB’s offense with a steal and score after picking Portia Neal’s pocket with 5:12 left in the half. Morrison then made it a five straight points for the Gauchos by knocking down a left corner triple in putting her team ahead 17-15.

Fullerton momentarily held a one-point lead following a lay up from Kathleen Iwuoha, but it would be short lived as Brance connected on her first three-pointer with 2:16 left to give UCSB the 22-20 advantage.

From there, the Gauchos kept the Titans at bay until the 5:25 mark in the second half when an Iwuoha lay in made it 42-41 Fullerton. From then on, Chante Miles led the Titans down the stretch with seven points (all from the foul line) to seal the win. Miles led the game with 28 points and went 13-15 from the charity stripe.

UCSB will be back in the Thunderdome next Thursday to host UC Irvine at 7 p.m. They will follow that up with a home game with UC Davis on Saturday.