WBK: Gauchos fade against first-place Hawaii

Onome Jemerigbe’s game-high 14 points were not enough for UCSB to defeat the conference’s top team in Hawaii on Thursday night. The Rainbow Wahine completed their season sweep of the Gauchos with a 60-36 decision in the Thunderdome.

Santa Barbara’s record slides to 2-26 with a 2-13 mark in Big West play, while Hawaii improves to 21-7 and 13-2 in conference.

Jemerigbe opened the game in scoring seven points through the first three minutes, 27 seconds of the game in giving the Gauchos the early 9-6 lead.

“I knew that I could use my speed to beat them early on,” Jemerigbe said. “They have great defenders, so it was nice to have some of those first shots go in.”

The speedy point guard dashed her way through the key in taking a high pick set by Clair Watkins to finish off the glass for her first shot of the evening.

With Watkins finishing down low on a one-on-one matchup, Jemerigbe picked Connie Morris’s pocket and hit a pull up jumper from the foul line to tie the game at 6-6. She completed her hot start with a three-pointer after Taylor Farris’s outlet pass found her unguarded at the left wing. Farris finished the game with team-highs of three assists along with seven rebounds.

The Gauchos stretched out their lead to as many as six points at the 13:19 mark off a 7-2 run. Jasmine Ware gave the offense the initial spark with a jumper from the top of the key. Hawaii’s Shawna-Lei Kuehu responded in hitting a floater inside the paint, but UCSB was quick to attack on the other end as Jemerigbe earned her first trip to the foul line.

After the sophomore went 1-2 at the line, the Gauchos forced a stop on the defensive end, as Watkins capitalized on a jumper from the left elbow. UCSB tacked on two more after Jemerigbe swiped the ball from Marissa Wimbley and found Ware on the fast break as she faked out two defenders with an up-and-under move for the finish.

Kristine Brance offered some hard takes to the basket on back-to-back possessions and made both looks to give the Gauchos a 20-16 advantage with 10:40 remaining in the half.

Upset with her team’s early defensive lapses, Hawaii Head Coach Laura Beeman called a timeout following Brance’s second drive. In returning to the floor, the Rainbow Wahine made their adjustments and rattled off 14 unanswered points in taking its largest lead up to that point at 30-20 with three minutes before halftime.

As the offensive spark for the Gauchos, Jemerigbe fittingly ended the first half in scoring its last three points with a free throw followed by a short jumper in the lane.

While Santa Barbara netted the first five points of the second half with a Ware layup and a physical three-point play from Farris, Hawaii closed out the game strong in limiting the Gauchos to 21.7 percent shooting in the final 20 minutes.

Overall, Hawaii finished shooting 47.1 percent from the floor, while UCSB ended the night with a 28.8 percentage.