Page 2 From The Tournament: The Central Coast Rules Round One
Two first round games and two first round wins for the Big West Central Coast schools as No. 5 UC Santa Barbara and No. 6 Cal Poly march on in the Big West Women's Basketball Tournament.
GAUCHOS HOLD OFF THE 'EATERS
No. 5 seed UC Santa Barbara is one step closer to returning the women’s basketball program to prominence after winning its first postseason game since 2013 in an 62-43 win over No. 8 seed UC Irvine in the first round of the Big West Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament on Tuesday at the Bren Events Center in Irvine.
“Sometimes i’ve got to remind myself, ‘Ok we just might have to win one ugly,’ UC Santa Barbara head coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “We had no rhythm, we had no flow.”
For the most part, neither team had any sort of rhythm or flow until the fourth quarter when the Gauchos’ were finally able to get the ball out in transition. UCSB shot 43.8 percent from the field but was 0-for-13 from the three-point line. It was the first time this season the Gauchos failed to make a three.
“I get so frustrated because I know everybody is kind of stuck in the mud,” Henrickson said. “We were just looking for some spark and we weren’t going to get it from the three-point line.”
Junior center Je Zhe' Newton provided that spark, scoring 16 points and pulling down 10 boards.
For UC Irvine head coach Doug Oliver, it was his final game after four seasons at the helm.
“He’s been really opening, very fair coach and we’re going to miss him,” junior guard Irene Chavez said.
UC Irvine opened up to a 10-5 lead but the Gauchos battled back to tie it 12-12 at the end of the quarter.
Freshman guard Coco Miller’s energy and clutch free throw shooting helped put the Gauchos up in the second quarter and Newton aided in the post.
UCSB had a six-point lead late but Irvine scored four straight to end the quarter back by just three, 25-22.
The two played close in the third quarter and the Anteaters briefly took a lead. But the Gauchos went on a 10-run to open the final frame and move ahead for good. Chavez hit a jumper at 6:54 but it did nothing to stop Santa Barbara’s momentum. The Gauchos pulled ahead by as much as 21 points in the waning minutes and held off the Anteaters to advance to the quarterfinal round.
“I was happy that we were in the ballgame with that lack of offense for the first 30 minutes,” Oliver said. “Unfortunately, that’s our season in a capsule. We’ve always had a quarter along the way where we can’t score the basketball and the opponent gets some easy shots.”
The Anteaters (4-27) shot just 25.8 percent from the field and went 0-for-4 from behind the arc.
“Santa Barbara forced us to isolate and spread the floor early on we made some baskets inside, we put the ball on the block and established an inside game,” Oliver said. “But when they took it away and pressured our wings it became a 1-on-1 game and that’s not what we do best.”
Santa Barbara will play No. 3 Long Beach State on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Bren Events Center. In the thick of the postseason action after a one-year absence is right where the Gauchos (12-19) think they should be.
“Last year we weren’t here and that was hard,” senior guard Jasmine Ware said. “But being here now feels good because we put in a lot of work in the summer and the spring. It feels good to be back.”
Oliver ends a coaching career that spanned more than 40 years. He was an assistant with the men’s team at UC Irvine before moving over to serve in the same capacity with the women’s team. He’s hoping that another coach can come in and change the culture, but still, he says the Anteaters will have to do the one thing they couldn’t do on Tuesday night: Make baskets
“My hope is that a new voice a new system puts these young ladies in the position where they’re going to have some shots (to win),” he said. “But in saying that, they’re going to have to make some open shots.”
MUSTANGS STAMPEDE THE DEFENDING CHAMPS
Once the ball was firmly in the hands of Cal Poly sophomore guard Dynn Leaupepe, it rarely left. Behind Leaupepe’s 30 points, the sixth-seeded Mustangs cruised to a 72-51 victory over No. 7 seed CSUN in the opening round of the Big West Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament on Tuesday at the Bren Events Center in Irvine.
Dynn Leaupepe’s twin sister Lynn added in 14 points, senior guard Lisa Marie Sanchez had 12 and junior forward Hannah Gilbert returned from a lower leg injury to score 10 with six rebounds. Poly advanced to the quarterfinal round and will face No. 3 seed Long Beach State on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“I thought both Lynn and Dynn had the best games I’ve seen them play, offensively and defensively,” Cal Poly head coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “Sometimes Dynn is such an offensive producer that she takes little breaks on defense and she didn’t do that tonight.”
Cal Poly (15-15) turned the ball over only four times, setting a new school record.
“We just did a phenomenal job taking care of the ball, I thought,” Mimnaugh said.
The Matadors (7-24) dropped their sixth game in their last seven tries to end the season and their three-peat bid. The Big West will have a new representative in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. Cal Poly was the last winner prior to the Matadors’ back-to-back tournament championship wins in 2014 and 2015.
“When I was young and I got my butt whipped, I learned my lessons,” CSUN head coach Jason Flowers said. “Hopefully from the butt whoopings we got, including the one tonight, we learn the same lessons that whatever it is that we’re doing to get those results needs to be changed and we need to change some things around.”
Freshman center Channon Fluker scored 17 to lead the Matadors. The damage was minimal compared to what the Big West Freshman of the year has been capable of in Big West conference play. The game plan was to force her to go to her weak side.
It worked to a certain extent.
“She’s so good going right that what we thought had worked for us in our previous meeting was to make her turn the other direction,” Mimnaugh said. “We didn’t make her do that very often tonight.”
Fluker scored the first four points for CSUN but Dynn Leaupepe scored the first seven for Cal Poly and the Mustangs never trailed after her layup at the 4:02 mark in the first quarter.
Cal Poly made four straight shots to open the third quarter. The Mustangs burned the Matadors in transition and wore them out with a physical battle.
With the Matadors trying desperately to close the gap in the third quarter, Vanessa Garner made two straight layups to make the score 53-39 with 1:18 left, but Dynn Leaupepe then took it upon herself to shut the door on CSUN.
With 50 seconds left, Sanchez passed out of the double-team and found Dynn Leaupepe was wide open on the elbow for the uncontested jumper. She then stole the ball from Garner on the next possession and went coast-to-coast for the layup right before the buzzer expired and Poly ended the third up 57-42.
The Mustangs outscored the Matadors 15-9 in the fourth quarter.
For a program used to winning, a losing season is a wakeup call.
“We should have listened more to our coach,” CSUN’s lone senior Jasmine Johnson said. “We could have had a better effort.”
Page 2 from the Tournament: Women's Preview