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    Long Beach State women topple UCSB in Big West Tournament opener
    • March 14, 2024

    Blowing a 21-point third-quarter lead can take the air out of a lot of teams, but the Long Beach State women’s basketball team fired back at UC Santa Barbara in the fourth and advanced to the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament with a 90-75 victory on Wednesday afternoon in Henderson, Nevada.

    “It was the fight,” Long Beach guard Savannah Tucker said. “It was the fight in us and we found it.”

    Seventh-seeded Long Beach (14-17) will face third-seeded UC Riverside (18-12) on Thursday at noon.

    LBSU helped itself by shooting 12 for 27 from 3-point range, 16 for 18 from the free-throw line and forcing 19 turnovers.

    Six players scored in double figures for Long Beach, led by Tucker with 17 points, Sydney Woodley with 16 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals and Cheyenne Givens with 16 points off the bench.

    Patricia Chung contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds for LBSU, which did not return any starters this season, featured a new coach in Amy Wright and lost seven of its first eight conference games before going 7-5 the rest of the way.

    Tucker said Long Beach caught a lot of teams off guard in the second half of conference play, including UCSB, which beat LBSU by 13 points in the first meeting only to lose by six in the second meeting at home last week.

    “I think we flipped that switch that second time around in conference,” Tucker said. “We showed what we really could do and I think that showed today in the fourth quarter.”

    The sixth-seeded Gauchos (16-15) were led by Alexis Whitfield, a former CIF-SS Division 1 Player of the Year from Chaminade High in West Hills, who finished with a career-high 30 points along with 17 rebounds and eight assists.

    The Gauchos finished the season on a seven-game losing streak.

    UCSB ended the third quarter on a 13-0 run and Whitfield’s jumper on the first possession of the fourth further trimmed the lead to 65-64, but LBSU came back with five straight points to establish some breathing room.

    After the Gauchos scored their first points of the fourth, Long Beach came back with a 7-0 run to put them back down by double digits and they could only get back within five before LBSU closed the game on a 10-0 surge.

    Wright said her team experienced a similar game on Feb. 10 at Cal Poly, when LBSU owned a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter before losing 84-76.

    “That moment at Cal Poly, they felt that,” Wright said. “They know what it’s like for this to happen to them, so they weren’t going to let it happen again.”

    Much like UC Davis did in the first game of the day, Long Beach was on fire in the first half from 3-point range, shooting 8 for 15 to build a 54-34 lead.

    UC Davis shot 10 for 16 from 3-point range in the first half against Cal State Fullerton to help it to a 46-26 halftime lead and the Aggies eventually won, 81-57.

    Long Beach also flashed its defense early on by forcing four turnovers in the first 3½ minutes to help it take an early 10-3 lead.

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    LBSU scored eight unanswered points during a 34-second stretch later in the opening quarter to stretch the lead to 25-11.

    Whitfield scored the final five points of the first quarter and the Gauchos converted the first field-goal attempt of the second to cut the margin to 27-20.

    An 11-0 run by Long Beach extended the lead back to 45-26 with 2:56 left in the half. After the Gauchos scored five straight points, Jada Crawshaw and Tucker made back-to-back 3-pointers for LBSU to push the lead to 51-31 and LBSU maintained the 20-point lead at the half.

    Tucker told her teammates at the half that UCSB would make a run.

    “We had to match that, we had to bring another level to that,” she said. “We knew they were going to come out, they were going to make some shots.”

    ​ Orange County Register