No.9 UC Santa Brbra 80, Pacific 68
RENO, Nev. (AP) _ Stacy Clinesmith scored 19 points and Kristi Rohr had 16 as No. 9 UC Santa Barbara beat Pacific 80-68 on Friday to advance to the Big West Conference tournament championship.
The Gauchos (29-3) extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 25 despite having their top player, Erin Buescher, in foul trouble most of the game. She fouled out with 4:08 remaining and had just three of her 11 points in the second half.
It was Santa Barbara’s 50th straight victory over a Big West opponent.
Rachelle Rogers added 12 points, including a clutch 3-pointer in the late going for Santa Barbara, bidding for its fourth tournament championship in a row. The Gauchos will play in Saturday’s title game against either Nevada or Long Beach State, who met later Friday in the other semifinal. The winner advances to the NCAA tournament.
Chante Guggia’s 17 points led Pacific (18-11). Eden Palacio had 16 points and Millie Kimpton added 14.
Trailing by four at the break, the Tigers went ahead 39-37 on successive layups by Guggia, but the Gauchos then scored 14 of the next 18 points to regain the lead 51-43.
Clinesmith hit a 3-pointer during the surge to snap a tie and the Gauchos kept their composure after Buescher was benched with 11:20 remaining with her fourth foul.
The three-time conference player of the year returned briefly, but fouled out with 4:08 remaining and Santa Barbara leading 61-56.
Still, the Tigers lost ground.
Clinesmith hit a pair of free throws and Rohr drove in for a layup to offset a 3-pointer by Palacio, and Santa Barbara then made four consecutive free throws to build a 10-point cushion with 2:15 remaining.
By then, Pacific was forced to foul but the Gauchos made enough of their free throws down the stretch to fend off the Tigers, who saw four of their players foul out in the last 3:55.
The Gauchos opened with a rush, converting a series of fastbreaks into a 12-2 lead.
However, before they could pull away any further, Kimpton broke up their momentum by connecting on a 3-pointer and Pacific gradually got back in the game.
Santa Barbara was still leading 27-21 after a driving layup by Rohr but the Tigers moved in front with a 7-0 burst capped by Palacio’s putback.
The Gauchos outscored Pacific 8-3 over the last 3:40 of the first half, hitting six of eight free throws to lead 35-31.