UCSB Falls 81-55 to Washington State, Watkins Scores Career-High

Clair Watkins (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Clair Watkins (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Though UCSB finished with its highest shooting percentage of the year and were within seven-points at halftime, Washington State was able to pull away in the second half, dealing the Gauchos an 81-55 loss. 

Santa Barbara falls to 0-7 on the season, while the Cougars improve to 6-2.

"Our team got better tonight," UCSB Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. "I'm not happy and never will be after a loss. I hate to lose, but our team got better tonight. The effort has been there for the team, it's now just putting it all together."

Clair Watkins finished the game with a career-high 18 points and was two rebounds shy of a double-double. Behind her was Chaya Durr who hit career-bests with 10 points and five steals in just her second start ever as a Gaucho. Coming off the bench, 5-7 guard Makala Roper reeled in seven rebounds -- second only to Watkins on the team -- and also led the team with three assists. As a team, Santa Barbara finished shooting 40.8 percent from the field, which is 12 better than its season average coming into the game.   

UCSB kept the score close throughout the first half against a team that had beaten a top-10 team in Maryland, and was now receiving votes in the AP national poll. While the Cougars were on the prowl early with a 6-0 to open the game, the Gauchos were quick to respond, as Onome Jemerigbe and Durr put together back-to-back makes from the field to make it a one-possession contest. 

Jemerigbe -- who finished with nine points -- used a swift drive through the lane to give UCSB its first bucket of the night, while Durr got her night started early with a short jumper at the 16:21 mark. 

But with prolific scoring performances from the backcourt duo of Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley, Washington State was able to pull away and even grabbed a 12-point advantage with a 34-22 score with 2:26 left in the half. Overall, Galdeira finished with a game-high 28 points behind a healthy mix of three-point shooting (4-8) and strong drives to the basket, while Presley also looked sharp from downtown (3-5) and ended her night with 17 points.

With time in the first half waning, UCSB limited the Cougars to just two free throws in a 6-2 Gaucho run before the break. 

Watkins bookended the run with a pair of layups, while Jemerigbe complimented her center's efforts with a long two from the top of the arc to move the team back within single digits. Watkins's layup with eight seconds was the final basket of the half, as UCSB put itself within seven points of Washington State. 

In the second half, the Cougars were able grabbed the game's momentum and never let it go, as they concluded the game with 51 percent shooting -- including six three-pointers -- in the final 20 minutes. 

UCSB will continue its season on the road when it visits San Diego State on Sunday at 2 p.m. It will be the third time in three seasons that the Gauchos will meet the Aztecs and will be the second time the teams have played in the Viejas Arena during that span. There will be a telecast of the game, as well as an audio presentation broadcasted locally on AM 1290 or online on UCSBgauchos.com.