No. 5 CSUN Surges Late to Upend No. 4 UCSB in Big West Tournament Quarterfinals

Drea Toler (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Drea Toler (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

FULLERTON, Calif. – In a thrilling back-and-forth affair throughout most of the night, the No. 4 seeded UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team could not withstand a late 11-0 run from No. 5 CSUN and fell to the Matadors 72-63 in the Big West Tournament Quarterfinals on Wednesday night at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Gym.

The Gauchos entered the night having split the season series against CSUN, who figured to be a formidable opponent with two-time and reigning Player of the Year, not to mention Defensive Player of the Year, Channon Fluker.

UCSB, however, executed its game plan early on, completely taking the ball away from Fluker in the paint.

Feisty defense from the Gauchos led to the Matadors missing their first six shots, while Drew Edelman established herself in the post with two early baskets. Makala Roper dialed in a pair of three-pointers in the early minutes of the game, and after a last second layup from Natalia Bruening on a nice dish from Akilah Jennings, UCSB took a 15-10 lead after the first quarter.

A pair of Sarah Bates free-throws, followed by a Sarah Porter triple in transition gave the Gauchos their largest lead of the game, 20-13, two minutes into the second quarter.

The Matadors responded by turning to freshman guard Destiny Brooks, who began to heat up from downtown with back-to-back three-pointers to make it a one-point game, 20-19.

After both teams went scoreless for nearly three minutes, Porter hit a jumper to break the cold spell and the back-and-forth action ensued until CSUN snared a 30-28 lead entering the break.

The Matadors looked to establish Fluker early and often in the second half as she scored four straight points for CSUN, but Drea Toler countered with four straight points of her own for UCSB to keep the seesaw action alive.

The most critical junction of the game would come nearly midway through the fourth quarter with the teams tied at 53-53. After a pair of free-throws from Tessa Boagni, CSUN got a stop and turned to Boagni again as the shot clock dwindled down to put the Matadors up four, 57-53. A key Gauchos turnover allowed CSUN another possession, and it was none another than Brooks who hit a big three-pointer to finally create separation between the teams.

Boagni and Fluker made back-to-back baskets to make it an 11-0 run that spanned over three minutes to put the Matadors ahead, 64-53, with 2:44 remaining.

Porter, Bates and Toler gave the Gauchos everything they had with baskets down the stretch, cutting the lead back down to six, but CSUN hit its free-throws to ice the game.

The Gauchos shot 39.1 percent (25-for-64) for the game and went 6-of-19 from three while the Matadors shot at a 44.1 percent (26-for-59) clip and drained 9-of-22 triples, including five alone from Brooks.

UCSB was led by one last double-double, an 18-point 12-rebound performance from Edelman while Porter and Toler also notched double-figures with 15 and 13, respectively.

CSUN was led by Boagni's 16 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter alone, while Brooks finished with 15, all on three-pointers. Fluker managed a 10-point, 13-rebound double-double.

UCSB concludes the season 12-17 overall and will graduate four seniors in Edelman, Toler, Roper and Chaya Durr.