Nov. 19, 2007
Los Angeles, CA - LMU overcame a slow start to build an 11-point second half lead but UC Santa Barbara closed the game on a 32-11 run to hand the Lions a 79-69 defeat in their home opener Monday evening at Gersten Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA. The loss snaps the Lions' (2-2) winning streak at two and pulls the Gauchos back to 2-2.
The second half was a simple story that can be broken in half. LMU out-scored UCSB 31-10 over the first 10:30 of the half, only to see the Gauchos recover over the final portion to pull away at the end.
Senior Amanda DeCoud tied her career-high with 19 points, 12 in the second half, and added five steals and five assists. Four days after setting a new career-high with 11 points at Long Beach State, sophomore Jessica Vargas topped that with 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, adding seven rebounds and two steals. Sophomore Lisa Helmers contributed 12 points and six rebounds while senior Valerie Ogoke had six points and 12 boards.
Sha'Rae Gibbons led four Gauchos in double figures with 19 points. Chisa Ononiwu added 17 points and Jessica Wilson 13. Jenna Green also was in double figures with 14 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks.
The Lions shot 50% in the second half but just 39.7% (25-for-63) overall. They struggled from the line and from downtown, sinking 54.5% (18-of-33) from the stripe and 9.1% (1-for-11) from three-point range. They overcame those woes on defense and the offensive glass, forcing 23 turnovers and grabbing 19 o-boards. UCSB cooled off from a hot start but still shot 47.4% (27-for-57) overall and held a slim 40-39 total rebounding advantage.
Trailing by nine at the break, DeCoud put the Lions on her back coming out of the half, scoring six straight points to bring LMU back to 37-34. After a layup by Ononiwu, Ogoke had an offensive rebound-put back and completed the three-point play and the Lions were within two. LMU got another stop, which led to a long three-pointer by Helmers to give the Lions their first lead of the game, 40-39, at 16:12.
The DeCoud show continued as she followed with a free throw, a three-point play, and another layup. Offensive rebounding also aided the Lions as Helmers came untouched from the top of the key to gather her own missed three-pointer and lay it back in to complete a 19-2 Lion run for a 48-41 lead with 13:19 to go. DeCoud was the catalyst, scoring 12 points with two steals in the first seven minutes of the half.
LMU's lead grew to 58-47 with 9:30 to go but there was still plenty of time for the Gauchos to respond. Respond they did, with a 14-2 spurt that included three-pointers by Ononiwu and Wilson and was capped by a triple by Gibbons that gave UCSB a 61-60 lead with 5:49 left.
The next few minutes resembled a heavyweight fight as the teams battled back and forth. The Lions answered the Gauchos' run, finding junior Jenna Sybesma for a layup but the Gauchos came right back with two free throws by Whitney Warren to reclaim the lead. Kat Suderman followed with a jumper and the Lions turned it over on its next three possessions. That proved critical as Wilson made a steal and a layup, Green had a jump-hook, and Wilson sank a layup and was fouled to make it 71-65 and essentially put the game away. Free throws down the stretch provided the winning margin as UCSB went 10-for-11 at the line over the final four minutes.
The story of the game early was opposite ends of the shooting spectrum. UCSB made its first five shots, including three from three-point range, while the Lions missed on their first seven despite forcing six turnovers. At the 14-minute mark, the Gauchos led 13-4 but back-to-back baskets by redshirt freshman Aleyse Evans and a fastbreak jumper by Vargas pulled LMU back to 13-10 with 12:20 left.
Fouls on the Gauchos helped the Lions, who were shooting in the bonus at the 12-minute mark. Unfortunately, LMU could not convert, sinking just seven of its 14 attempts and UCSB began to pull away. The Gauchos picked up the pace, running off a 16-4 run keyed by six points by Sha'Rae Gibbons and four by Ariana Gnekow to take its largest lead, 29-17, with 6:30 remaining.
The Gauchos stayed hot, shooting nearly 60% from the floor for the first half to take a 37-28 advantage into the locker room. UCSB went 57.7% (15-for-26) while LMU, on the other hand, sank 27.6% (8-for-29) of its shots from the field and was just 12-for-24 at the line.
LMU remains at Gersten this weekend as it hosts the 11th annual Ayres Hotel Thanksgiving Tournament. The tournament will open Friday with Indiana State versus San Diego State, followed by the Lions against Jackson State. The consolation game and championship games are Saturday. Games for both days are scheduled for 2 and 4 p.m.