Gauchos Grind Out Win Over Long Beach State to Open Big West Play

Sarah Bates (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Sarah Bates (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Makala Roper scored a game-high 15 points off the bench and Drew Edelman grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds to lead the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team past Long Beach State, 51-44, in the Big West Conference opener on Thursday night at the Thunderdome.

In a rematch of last season's Big West Tournament Championship game, that saw Long Beach edge the Gauchos 56-55, UCSB was able to earn a bit of redemption and start the conference slate on a strong note. With the win, the Gauchos improve to 4-9 overall and have now won three in-a-row, while the 49ers fall to 2-13.

It was not the prettiest of victories, however, as the Gauchos shot just 31 percent (18-for-58) from the field and benefited from Long Beach State shooting just 30.4 percent (17-for-56). Entering the game ranked 30th in the nation in steals and first in the conference, the 49ers showcased their disruptive defense from the get go.

"We have to show more poise and composure," said head coach Bonnie Henrickson. "I didn't think our effort was bad, but I didn't think our focus was very good. We were a little antsy and unsure on the offensive end."

After a slow start from both teams, UCSB trailed by one, 23-22, in a low scoring first half.

To start the third quarter, the Gauchos used a 9-0 run to take a 31-23 lead and create some separation. Sarah Porter highlighted the run with her only basket of the game while Akilah Jennings and Aliceah Hernandez added buckets in the paint.

Jennings continued to make the most of her minutes and gave UCSB its largest lead of the game, 45-30, with a three-pointer in the early minutes of the fourth quarter.

Long Beach State, however, would not go away quietly and mounted a 14-2 run to make it a one possession game, 47-44, with just over a minute remaining.

Key defense down the stretch, led by Chaya Durr, and four free-throws from Sarah Bates put the game on ice for UCSB.

While not a dominant factor on the offensive end, Edelman was instrumental with 23 rebounds, surpassing her career-high of 19 that she set earlier this season. She finished just two shy of a UCSB program record, held by Leslie Ford, who had 25 rebounds against CSUN during the 1976-77 season.

"We rely on Drew so much, that on a night where she wasn't herself, it's a positive takeaway that we could still find a way to win," said Henrickson.

Roper led the way offensively, pouring in a season-high 15 points, all coming by way of the three-pointer after going 5-for-9 from distance.

Long Beach State was led by Cecily Wilson who finished with nine points.

UCSB continues conference play this Saturday, Jan. 6 at 2:00 p.m. when Cal Poly comes to town for a Blue-Green Rivalry matchup at the Thunderdome. 

Season tickets and individual game tickets are available online here or call the UCSB Athletics Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB (8272).