Lady Rebs fall in tourney opener

MISSOULA, Mont. – UC Santa Barbara shot 48.4 percent in the second half and held off a late Ole Miss surge as the Lady Rebels dropped a 74-66 decision to the Gauchos Saturday evening from Dahlberg Arena in the second game of the Lady Griz Holiday Classic.

Ole Miss sophomore guard Bianca Thomas scored a career-high 22 points, including 4-for-5 from three-point range, to lead the Lady Rebels. Junior center Shawn Goff tallied 14 points to go along with a game-high seven rebounds, while sophomore guard Shantell Black added 10 points and four assists.

UC Santa Barbara guard Chisa Ononiwu paced the Gauchos with 16 points, including several clutch shots in the second half to halt Lady Rebel runs. Center Kat Suderman scored 15 points to go along with seven rebounds, while guard Lauren Pedersen added 10 points.

After entering the second half with an 11 point lead, UC Santa Barbara upped its lead to as many as 16 points as the Gauchos held a double digit lead for the first 12 minutes of the second half. Trailing 60-45 at the 10:11 mark of the second half, Ole Miss used a 7-0 run capped by a layup from Black to cut the UC Santa Barbara lead to eight points. On the ensuing possession, however, Ononiwu hit a jumper just inside the 3-point arc to give the Gauchos a double digit lead again.

The Lady Rebels managed to cut the UC Santa Barbara lead down to seven points with just over three minutes remaining as Thomas scored seven consecutive points for Ole Miss, including two clutch three-pointers. Just as she had done before, Ononiwu answered on the other end with a jumper to put the Gauchos up by nine points with just over two minutes remaining to thwart the Ole Miss run.

Ole Miss (5-6, 0-0 SEC) sprinted out to a 6-0 run in the first two minutes of the game as freshman guard Kayla Melson converted two layups. UC Santa Barbara responded with a 9-2 run to take its first lead of the game at 9-8 at the 13:15 mark of the opening half. The Gauchos turned 14 first half offensive rebounds into 15 second chance points to maintain its lead. Overall, UC Santa Barbara held a 27-17 rebounding edge in the first half.

The Lady Rebels return to action Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. (CT) when Ole Miss faces tournament host Montana from Dahlberg Arena.

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