The UCSB women’s basketball team played like the Gauchos of old Sunday afternoon, going on the road to upset #29 Stephen F. Austin, 62-57.
With the victory, Santa Barbara snapped the Lady Jacks 27-game home winning streak and reclaimed some confidence that had disappeared after back-to-back losses to Cal Poly and Irvine.
The Gauchos were led by sophomore guard Jess Hansen, who scored a career high 23 points and hit a number of clutch shots down the stretch.
"This win was a huge confidence boost for us," Hansen said. "After the two losses we had started questioning our own ability, but this win shows that we’re still the same team that beat Virginia and Kansas earlier this season."
Hansen got Santa Barbara rolling early, hitting her first three of the game to give UCSB a 3-0 lead. The trey was a welcomed sight for Hansen, who hit only 2 of 13 field goals against UCI, including a paltry 1-7 from behind the arc.
The Gauchos went cold following the Hansen three, and SFA rolled to a 10-5 lead. UCSB then battled the Lady Jacks for a 15-15 tie, with freshman forward Jess Combs scoring six early points.
Santa Barbara reclaimed the lead at 18-17 on another Hansen bomb before heading into half time up 25-22 on the strength of freshman center Lindsay Taylor’s three-point play. Taylor led the Gauchos at the half with nine points, exploiting her height to score at will inside.
"We did a really good job of getting the ball inside because we did have a big height advantage," Taylor said. "I missed some easy shots, but the guards kept giving me the ball."
The Lady Jacks came out into the second half determined to keep their winning streak alive; eight points from sophomore guard Nathesia Wright helped SFA take a commanding 35-30 lead. SFA then extended its advantage to 42-36 and seemed poised to pull away from the Gauchos.
UCSB caught fire on a 12-0 run with Hansen pouring in eight points during the surge. The outburst marked the best basketball that Santa Barbara has played in over two and a half games.
"[The run] was very important," Combs said. "It got us really pumped up and we knew that we were going to win after that."
The Gauchos could not use the run to close out SFA and UCSB’s recent turnover woes nearly came back to haunt it with time running out.
With just over a minute remaining, sophomore point guard Debby Caine had her inbound pass intercepted by SFA guard Latisha Prater, who then took the ball in for a layup, cutting the UCSB lead to 53-52.
Santa Barbara then looked to Hansen for an answer and she responded, silencing the Lady Jacks’ crowd with a 10-foot jumper to put UCSB up 55-52. The Gauchos then buried 5-6 free throws in the final 20 seconds to finish off SFA.
"It will be interesting to see where this win takes us," Head Coach Mark French said on 1250 AM. "Hopefully this win will catapult us into a swing of confidence and playing well down the stretch.