Lauren Rabaino

A stretch of first-half cold shooting by the Cal Poly women’s basketball team enabled UC Santa Barbara to turn its Big West Conference Tournament semifinal into a rout and an eventual 77-57 win Friday afternoon at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The top-seeded Gauchos, who ended the fifth-seeded Mustangs’ 13-19 season while advancing to the Big West title game for the 12th consecutive year, took a 3-0 lead on a 3-pointer by junior guard Lauren Pedersen 19 seconds into the game and would never trail.

After a layup by Cal Poly sophomore forward Rebecca Tratter cut the deficit to 12-8 four minutes and 55 seconds after tip-off, the Mustangs missed 12 of their next 13 shots from the floor over the ensuing 7:21 during a span when UCSB would reel off a 21-4 run to extend its lead to 33-12.

Although the margin would be narrowed to 49-30 by halftime, the Gauchos would use an 8-0 second-half surge to establish their largest advantage of 27 at 63-36 with 8:28 elapsed after intermission.

Another Tratter layup made the affair 65-50 with 5:25 remaining, but the Mustangs would get no closer.

Junior guard Sha’Rae Gibbons paced four UCSB starters – and five Gauchos overall – scoring in double figures with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

Also key in the balanced UCSB attack were Pedersen (12 points), senior guard Chisa Ononiwu (11), junior wing Whitney Warren (10) and the Big West Player of the Year, senior guard Jessica Wilson (10).

Tratter was 7 of 11 from the floor in 26 minutes off the bench to lead the Mustangs with a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds, both game highs.

No one else scored in double figures for Cal Poly, which went 22 of 54 from the floor yet just 1 of 10 from 3-point range.

UCSB, which earned a 35-31 rebounding advantage, supplemented its 26-of-56 performance from the floor by sinking 20 of 27 free throws; Cal Poly made it to the charity stripe 12 fewer times, going 12 of 15.

The Gauchos (22-7), who went 15-1 in conference play during the regular season, won all three of their outings with Cal Poly this year and will face either No. 2 seed UC Davis or No. 3 seed UC Riverside in the conference championship at noon Saturday.

Seniors whose Mustangs careers came to a close in the loss were guards Sparkle Anderson and Kyla Howell, forward Toni Newman and center Nicole Yarwasky.

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