The UCSB women’s basketball team has battled through adversity all season, and this weekend provided another opportunity for the Gauchos to display their resiliency.
Forced to play without senior forward Nicole Greathouse, UCSB (17-8, 10-2 in the Big West) continued its climb back to the top of the Big West standings after sliding by Boise State 62-58 and trouncing Idaho 84-60. With the victories, Santa Barbara pulled into a first-place tie with Long Beach State, and extended its overall winning streak to four games.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said on 1250 AM radio. “This road trip was tough, especially without Greathouse, but hopefully we’re peaking at the right time.”
The Gauchos came out on fire against BSU (9-15, 5-6), shooting their way to a 9-0 lead, while holding the Broncos scoreless for the first four minutes of the game. However, Santa Barbara soon cooled off, and BSU took advantage, pulling to within one, 16-15.
Already playing shorthanded, UCSB looked to be in serious trouble when another senior, forward Rachelle Rogers, went down with a severe hip pointer after only 17 minutes of action. Despite their misfortune, the Gauchos limped into halftime with a 34-30 lead.
“We didn’t have many subs tonight, and I was definitely feeling it,” said junior forward Kayte Christensen on 1250 AM. “We all just knew that we would have to step it up.”
Santa Barbara did just that in the second half, extending its lead to 48-36. Starting in place of Greathouse, who was unable to travel with the team because of medical reasons, freshman center Lindsay Taylor led the way for UCSB in the second half, abusing the stubbier Broncos’ defenders for easy baskets around the hoop. Taylor finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds for the second double-double of her career, while playing a career-high 30 minutes.
Feeding off Taylor, UCSB took its biggest lead of the game at 54-41 with just over five minutes left to play, and seemed to have the game in hand. But BSU rallied behind back-to-back three pointers from sophomore guard Abby Vaughan, cutting the Gauchos’ lead to 60-58.
The Broncos then sent Gaucho sophomore point guard Debby Caine to the charity stripe, hoping that she would buckle under the pressure and give BSU a chance to tie. But Caine calmly sank both free throws, securing the game for Santa Barbara.
UCSB would only have to play without one senior Sunday against the Vandals, as Rogers returned with a vengeance. Playing in pain, Rogers still managed to pour in 17 points, including 15 in the first half, while inspiring her teammates with her courageous effort.
“Rachelle gave us a real shot in the arm today,” French said. “She came out and gutted it out and shot the ball really well for us.”
The Gauchos came out hot against the Vandals, racing out to a 15-5 lead behind five of Rogers’ points. Idaho (6-19, 3-9) then battled back to cut the Santa Barbara lead to four, 22-18. Not to be outdone, UCSB answered with a 14-4 run of its own, with Rogers leading the way once again, contributing seven points during the surge.
Riding the excellent play of Rogers, the Gauchos took a 45-36 lead into halftime, and came out determined to put the Vandals away in the second period. Unfortunately for UCSB, Idaho had other ideas, slicing Santa Barbara’s lead to 47-42.
With Rogers cooling off, it was time for another player to step up for the Gauchos. That player turned out to be two people: Christensen and Taylor. The duo combined for 39 points and 21 rebounds, with Taylor recording her second double-double of the road trip.
Behind the stellar performances of its post players, UCSB seized control of the game, going up 68-49 at the five-minute mark. Knowing that it had nearly blown a similar lead only two days earlier against BSU, Santa Barbara didn’t let up, outscoring the Vandals 16-1 to finish the game.
“We had our opportunities tonight,” Idaho Head Coach Hillary Recknor said on 1250 AM. “We just turned the ball over too much. [This loss] was really frustrating.”
The Gauchos now return home to play Pacific on Thursday, before facing off against Long Beach State in a battle for the first place in the Big West.
“We’re not going to practice very hard this week,” French said on 1250 AM. “We’re going to rest up so we can be ready to rock ‘n’ roll next weekend against Pacific and Long Beach.”