Nobody said breaking a curse was easy.
After enduring a 19-game losing streak to teams coached by current Arizona Head Coach Joan Bonvicini, the UCSB women’s basketball team finally broke Bonvicini’s spell, topping her Wildcats in an impressive fashion, 94-80, at the McKale Memorial Center on Monday night.
With the win, the Gauchos ran their winning streak to a season-high three games, and avenged a 71-63 loss to UA last season at the Thunderdome.
It was the Kayte Christensen show once again for Santa Barbara, with the senior forward scorching Arizona for 34 points, on 16-17 shooting. The 16 field goals set a new mark for most in a game by a Gaucho, breaking the old record of 14, set by three other players.
Christensen also pulled down 11 rebounds and picked up four steals in 33 minutes of action. Christensen has now scored 70 points on 29-32 shooting over her last two games after pouring in a career-high 36 points last Sunday against Northridge.
“I just feel like a lot of [the credit] goes to our guards,” Christensen said on 1250 AM. “When I came here, I really wanted to run the floor, and we’re really getting back to the old Gaucho way of running the floor. So it’s a whole team concept that we’ve got going, and I’m just glad I’m playing well for them right now.”
As great as Christensen was, it took a complete team effort to overcome 12 Wildcat three-pointers. Four other Gauchos scored in double-digits for UCSB. Freshman forward Kristen Mann scored 17 points, while freshman guard Mia Fisher and junior guard Jess Hansen both notched 13 points. Playing in front of family and friends in her homecoming, sophomore center Lindsay Taylor chipped in 14.
The win was the first for UCSB against Arizona since 1990, and also carried some personal significance for UCSB Head Coach Mark French, who chalked up his first victory over Bonvicini in 15 tries.
In a sign of things to come, Christensen recorded the first bucket of the game for UCSB, giving the Gauchos an early 2-0 lead. Arizona then responded with a 19-6 run to take a commanding 19-8 lead and it appeared that Gauchos still had not figured out a way to break Bonvicini’s mastery over UCSB.
Santa Barbara then began to rally with a jumper from Hansen, and stormed to within 22-20. But just as UCSB started to find its rhythm, Arizona ran off 10 straight points, taking a 32-20 advantage. Christensen provided an answer to the Wildcats’ barrage, scoring six straight points to cut into the Arizona lead. The rest of the Gauchos followed their co-captain’s example, as Mann buried a three-pointer and a jumper, which were followed by a trey from Hansen to even the count at 34-34.
The two teams then traded baskets, with Christensen converting a three-point play to tie the game at 39-39. Christensen then gave the Gauchos the lead heading into halftime, burying a short jumper as time expired to give UCSB a 43-41 advantage.
The second half began much as the first ended, with both squads seemingly unable to miss. Christensen once again scored first for Santa Barbara on a jumper and, following an Arizona three, buried a layup to put UCSB up three, 47-44. A trey from Wildcat sophomore guard Aimee Grzyb tied the game at 47-all and set the stage for the back-and-forth second half.
UCSB regained the lead on a Mann jumper, but after each team exchanged four hoops, Arizona went up 57-56 on a three from junior guard Julie Brase. The next five minutes featured ties at 60, 62, 64, and finally at 71 apiece, when Arizona tied it on yet another trey from sophomore guard Candice Allen.
But with the game tied at 71-71, Christensen had seen enough, and seemingly willed the Gauchos to victory, scoring eight out of the next 10 Gaucho points, and putting UCSB up seven with under three minutes remaining. From there it was academic, as Hansen made six free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
UCSB will try to increase its winning streak to four games Wednesday night when it travels to Corvalis, Oregon to play Oregon State.