Senior guard Cheyenne Givens dribbles off the screen set by redshirt junior forward Becky Obinma versus UC Santa Barbara. The Waves would finish 2-2 on the home stand. Photos by Brandon Rubsamen
“We had some opportunities tonight that we didn’t take advantage of,” Head Coach Kristen Dowling said. “That’s the bottom line. We’re deep, but we gotta execute. And we need people to step up, and we didn’t have that tonight.”
It was a back-and-forth affair in the first quarter, and neither team gained much separation from each other.
The Waves got on the board first. Sophomore forward Kendyl Carson faked a handoff, which froze her defender, and Carson scored a layup. Freshman guard Ally Stedman pulled up from the baseline and nailed a midrange shot in transition to tie the game at four apiece with 7:32 remaining in the first quarter.
The Gauchos gained early separation after senior guard Megan Anderson converted on a 3-pointer from the left wing with the score at 7-4. Stedman answered by shaking off her defender with a hesitation move and nailing the midrange shot from the right elbow.
UC Santa Barbara started to find some success inside, so the Waves switched to a 2-3 zone in hopes of slowing down their offense and forcing the Gauchos to hit outside shots.
“We realized they were getting most of their points inside the paint,” redshirt junior forward Becky Obinma said. “So, we wanted to see if their shooters could knock down some shots, which they did.”
The Waves found themselves in a tough situation after freshman forward Meaali’l Amosa went down with a concussion. Obinma got into foul trouble as well, which limited the Waves offensive options.
Dowling said the team normally would have a four-person rotation at the forward and the center positions, but the Gauchos forced the Waves to a smaller lineup with Nwaba guarding UC Santa Barbara junior forward Ila Lane.
“Usually, if I wasn’t in foul trouble, we would’ve been able to hold them down better,” Obinma said. “But I couldn’t be able to play as aggressive as I wanted to because of the fouls.”
The second quarter started off strong for the Waves, and Givens nailed back-to-back 3-pointers with the Gauchos holding onto a 23-22 lead.
Redshirt junior Eve Braslis scored on a fast break layup. Carson nailed a right corner 3-pointer after Stedman came off two screens and found Carson open in the corner. The Gauchos led with the score at 30-29 with 4:11 remaining.
Nwaba provided the energy boost the Waves needed, as she secured an offensive rebound and scored on a put back layup and converted the three-point play.
“Just knowing I had to go into a different position [so] being ready, just taking advantage of the opportunity,” Nwaba said. “[I] just had be riled up [and it] gave me more energy. My teammates were giving me energy too, hyping me up the whole time.”
The third quarter saw much of the same action as the first half. Brasils scored on a layup after Carson came off the pick and roll. Obinma committed an offensive foul, which was her third of the game, but Dowling opted to keep her in the game.
Nwaba went on her own personal 4-0 run after scoring on an up-and-under layup and converting on another putback attempt.
“Jane was able to go during that time, and I thought she was able to bring the team together and also help us out,” Obinma said. “She was a big contribution to why we were able to stay in the game.”
Heading into the fourth quarter in a tightly contest game, the Waves pushed the pace after Brasilis forced a turnover, which initiated a fast break and Stedman finished the layup with the score at 52-51 in favor of the Gauchos.
After UC Santa Barbara sophomore guard Alyssa Marin attempted a wild layup, the Waves ran back on offense and Brasilis converted on a layup after a 3 on 2 fast break. Obinma, however, quickly picked up her fourth foul with 7:39 remaining, and Dowling was forced to sub Nwaba back in the game.
“For the most part, my fouls aren’t really from playing defense — it was more offensive fouls like screening and stuff like that,” Obinma said. “I try my best not to get too frustrated, but yes, for the most part, the offense usually runs through me.”
Martin converted on a layup after Givens went for the steal. Anderson made a three on the right wing after a defensive miscue by the Waves, extending the Gaucho’s lead to 57-53.
The Waves couldn’t find their offense down the stretch and Anderson put the game out of reach with another 3-pointer with the score at 63-58. Compared to the Gauchos, the Waves struggled from the three-point line, going 3-for-12, whereas the Gauchos went 8-for-18.
With Amosa sidelined for the second half, redshirt junior Jayla Ruffus-Milner unable to suit up due to injury and Obinma in foul trouble, the Waves couldn’t find their offensive consistency.
“Our bigs are definitely a big asset to the team of course, and that’s what we want to work out of,” Nwaba said. “Work through our bigs, so it definitely was difficult. But I can’t make any excuses — just needed to play hard.”
The Waves face Boise State on Dec. 18.
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