The Big West Conference women's basketball tournament got off to a rough start even before it got under way Wednesday at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Just an hour or so before the noon tip-off between Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Long Beach State, San Luis Obispo officials announced that six players had been suspended for their part in an off-campus drinking incident.
That left the Mustangs with only eight players, and their lineup was quickly depleted further when starting forward Michelle Henke, the team's leading rebounder, was lost in the second minute because of a knee injury. Because of foul problems and a second-half injury that kept guard Megan Turner off the floor for some time, San Luis Obispo finished the game with only five players.
The result was predictable. Long Beach, with 18 points and 10 rebounds from forward Glory Johnson and 17 points and six assists from guard Candice Wilson, led from start to finish and advanced to the semifinals with a 76-62 victory. The 49ers (14-14) will play Pacific Friday in the semifinals.
San Luis Obispo Coach Faith Mimnaugh said the suspended six, made up mostly of reserves, had alcohol at an off-campus location in violation of a team rule that prohibits drinking.
Four of the suspended San Luis Obispo players, guards Kaysen Brennan, Jennifer Dooley and Anatero Uiagalelei and forward Emilie Allin Ravn are freshmen. Also suspended were junior post players Lacy Tanneberg and Kate Valdes. Only Tanneberg, who turned 21 Sunday, is of age.
"We were 100% behind the coaches' decision," said San Luis Obispo senior center Heather Journey. "Everybody knew the rule, and they chose to break it."
Journey had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Mustangs (10-17), who split their regular-season games with Long Beach.
In other first-round games:
UC Santa Barbara 93, Cal State Fullerton 58 -- Lindsay Taylor, the conference player of the year, had 21 points to lead all scorers as the Gauchos (24-4) recorded their largest margin of victory in Big West tournament play in a first-round victory over the Titans (7-21). Santa Barbara will face the UC Irvine-Idaho winner in Friday's semifinals.
Meanwhile, Fullerton announced that Coach Barbara Ehardt was notified that her contract would not be renewed during a meeting with school officials Tuesday. Ehardt was 12-72 in three years at the school.
Pacific 63, UC Riverside 61 -- Jasmine Ewing made a layup with three-tenths of a second left to lead the Tigers (15-13) past the Highlanders (8-20).
The Highlanders led, 32-17, after a lay-in by guard Casandra Reeves, who scored a game-high 29 points, with 2:48 left in the first half. The Tigers (15-13) slowly rallied and caught the Highlanders, 61-61, on a pair of free throws by Corinne Wong with 35 seconds to go.
When Riverside's Astrid Spegel missed a three-point attempt badly with seven seconds left, Pacific quickly got the ball to Ewing for the game-winner.
UC Irvine 65, Idaho 60 -- The Vandals (10-18) cut a 17-point second-half deficit to three points in the final minute, but the Anteaters (17-11) made five of six free throws in the final 25 seconds to seal the victory.
Wendy Gabbe led Irvine with 18 points. Keisha Moore had 25 points for Idaho.