Wilson powers UC Santa Barbara into NCAA tournament

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- After dominating the Big West Conference for the past 13 years, a two-year absence from the NCAA tournament was long enough for UC Santa Barbara.

Led by Jessica Wilson's 16 points, the Gauchos earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with a 74-59 victory against UC Davis in the Big West Conference tournament championship game Saturday.

Wilson, the conference player of the year, was selected the tournament MVP. She also had seven rebounds.

"I'm so happy that we got back here," Wilson said. "It means so much because the last two years have been heartbreaking. This year, we didn't get heartbroken and I'm glad that we won."

Whitney Warren scored 12 points and Sha'Rae Gibbons added 13 for the Gauchos, who were making their 12th consecutive appearance in the Big West tournament championship game.

Santa Barbara (23-7) thwarted UC Davis' attempt to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since competing in the Division II championships in 1999.

Five different players scored for the Gauchos as they outscored the Aggies 17-2 in snapping a 42-42 tie early in the second half to take control of the game.

The Gauchos shot 54.2 percent against Davis' aggressive zone and forced the Aggies to commit 18 turnovers.

"That was the goal from the get-go," Gibbons said. "They want to slow things down. We wanted to speed things up."

Second-seeded UC Davis (19-11), playing in its first season of Division I and first in the conference, will likely continue its season in the 48-team Women's NIT.

All-Big West first-team selection Jessica Campbell had a game-high 25 for Davis, which was the only team to beat Santa Barbara during league play.

Both of the team's regular-season meetings went to overtime, something Wilson was relieved didn't happen again.

"Taking a loss during the season, I think it was good for us because it took the pressure off of us," Wilson said. "But I didn't want no overtime game."

Santa Barbara has won 19 of its past 20 games.

After a slow start, the Gauchos led by 16 and forced Davis to commit 18 turnovers.

Santa Barbara trailed most of the first half and by 10 until it began pressing and extending its defense with less than five minutes remaining before the break.

With Davis up 31-24, the Gauchos held the Aggies without a field goal for about 4 1/2 minutes during a 14-0 run capped by Meagan Williams' 3-pointer.

The Aggies snapped their scoring drought when Genevieve Costello made a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining that pulled UC Davis within four, 38-34 at halftime.