HENDERSON, Nev. (AP)Daejah Phillips scored 19 points, converting a three-point play with 3.4 seconds left, and Hawaii rallied to defeat UC Santa Barbara 61-59 on Saturday to defend its Big West Conference Tournament championship and earn a berth in its eighth NCAA Tournament.
After Alexis Tucker hit two free throws to put the Gauchos up with 6.4 seconds left, Phillips inbounded the ball to Imani Perez and cut past her to the basket and made the layup while being fouled.
Santa Barbara put a long shot off the back iron as time expired.
“I’m a winner … I don’t like losing,” Phillips said. “The team said, ‘Daejah go get it.’ They said, split to the basket, they’re going to over-play you,’ and that’s exactly what I did and got the and-1.”
Lily Wahinekapu scored 11 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter to rally the third-seeded Rainbow Wahine (18-14) from a 12-point deficit with 8:18 to play. Her third 3-pointer of the quarter followed by a layup with 1:21 to go made it 58-57 for Hawaii’s first lead since 4-2.
“It’s game time,” Wahinekapu said. “Coach B (Laura Beeman) and everyone on the team trusts me to make those shots and I did.”
Phillips also had 11 points in the fourth quarter, hitting two 3-pointers as Hawaii went 6 of 8 from distance and 9 of 14 overall, hitting its last eight shots.
Santa Barbara missed its last five shots after Ila Lane hit a jumper for a 57-50 lead with three minutes to go.
Tucker scored 21 points for the Gauchos (21-12), who were trying to win their 15th tournament title in 18 dries but their first since 2012. Anya Choice added 13 points and Lane 12.
Santa Barbara had six 3s but was 1 of 10 in the second half and shot 32%. Hawaii finished with 10 3s, going 7 of 11 in the second half, shooting 50%.
Tucker had a three-point play and then hit a 3-pointer to cap a 13-3 run that gave the Gauchos an early 15-7 lead. She had 15 in the first half and with Hawaii going 4 of 15 in the second quarter the lead ballooned to 38-23.
— AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25