Tournament MVP Kirsten Tilleman had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and No. 6 UC Santa Barbara pulled away late from the No. 7 Long Beach State women's basketball team as the Gauchos captured their first Big West Tournament championship since 2009 with a 63-54 win on Saturday afternoon at Honda Center.
Melissa Zornig came off the bench to score 12 points while forward Sweets Underwood added 11 for the Gauchos who improved to 17-15. Guard Alex Sanchez tallied a game-high 17 points while forward Devin Hudson also had a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds for the 49ers. Long Beach State ended its season with a 14-18 overall record.
UCSB won the Big West Tournament for the 14th time in 16 appearances but captured this year's title as the No. 6 seed, the lowest in tournament history. It was the first time a champion was lower than a four-seed.
The Gauchos won the title for first-year head coach Carlene Mitchell after UCSB, which led 21-20 at halftime, opened a 35-26 advantage with 11 minutes 45 seconds remaining. The 49ers, however, responded with a 15-5 run to go up 41-40 with 8:06 left before Adrian Kelsey's three-pointer returned the lead to UCSB for good.
A 55-48 Gauchos' lead was eventually whittled to just 55-52 with just over two minutes to play after a layup from Alex Sanchez. UCSB, though, put the game away by scoring the seven points to lead 62-52 with just 17 seconds left.
Both teams struggled shooting from the field, particularly in the first half when Long Beach State made just 28.6 percent (8 of 28) and the Gauchos converted just 28 percent (7 of 25). UCSB rebounded to shoot 51.7 percent in the second half while the 49ers warmed up to 46.4.
The teams were tied twice in the early part of the game before Long Beach State went up 8-6 on Hudson's jumper. But the Gauchos' Emilie Johnson hit a three-pointer to start a 10-0 surge that was capped by Zornig's trey, putting UCSB in front 16-8 just past the midway point of the half. Long Beach State returned the favor, however, using a 9-1 run of its own that tied the game 17-17 after Hallie Meneses' trey with 4:56 left.
The Gauchos and 49ers were tied one more time before UCSB took its one-point halftime lead.
Leading 27-24 early in the second half, the Gauchos took their biggest lead until late in the game after Angelei Aguirre's three-point play kick-started an 8-2 run that also included a three-pointer from Zornig and a layup from Nicole Nesbit that pushed the score to 35-26 with 11:45 remaining.
Sanchez then scored five straight points for Long Beach State, including a three-pointer, Lauren Spago had a three-point play, and Meneses added a trey and a jumper as the 49ers took their final lead at 41-40 with 7:44 left. Kelsey's three-pointer then returned the lead for good to UCSB.
Tilleman and Hudson were both effective on the offensive boards with Tilleman grabbing eight of her 11 rebounds on that side and Hudson pulling down seven of her 14.
Nesbit added five assists for UCSB which was just 4 of 14 from three-point territory. The 49ers made only 3 of 13.
Tilleman was joined on the all-tournament team by Zornig while Long Beach State was represented by Hudson, Meneses and Sanchez. Cal Poly's Kristina Santiago rounded out the squad.