It may not have been pretty, but the UCSB women’s basketball team will take it all the same.
In a game that was more defense than offense, more ineptitude than execution, the Gauchos overcame their sickly offensive output to tough-out a 66-47 win over Cal Poly Sunday afternoon. Shooting a season low 32.8%, Santa Barbara (9-5 overall, 3-0 in Big West play) once again relied on its defense to carry it to victory, and once again the Gauchos’ D came through. UCSB held the Mustangs (6-10, 3-3) to an abysmal 33.3% from the field and allowed only 17 second-half points. The Gauchos have now held five-straight opponents to under 40% shooting, all victories.
Sophomore center Lindsay Taylor and freshman guard Mia Fisher avoided the field goal drought, each scoring 14 points, to lead UCSB. Fisher – playing in place of junior guard Debby Caine, who sat out with tonsillitis – also played a team-high 33 minutes and grabbed five boards.
Taylor also hauled in 11 rebounds, recording her fourth double-double of the season. All the missed shots helped contribute to 52 UCSB rebounds, including 11 from senior forward Kayte Christensen and 10 from freshman forward Kristen Mann. Christensen, who averaged 28.3 points a game over the Gauchos’ last three contests, tied her season-low with eight points.
The Gauchos’ slow start enabled Cal Poly to stay close throughout the first half at the Thunderdome, with the Mustangs eventually evening the score heading into the locker rooms. UCSB, which shot a paltry 9-29 (31.0%) from the field in the first half, took its biggest lead of nine points with just over three minutes remaining in the period on a jumper from sophomore forward Lisa Willett. However, Santa Barbara was unable to maintain its advantage, and allowed the Mustangs to finish the half with a 9-0 spurt to tie the game at 29 apiece going into halftime.
Obviously upset with the play of his regulars, UCSB head coach Mark French inserted walk-on freshman forwards Bethany Blair and Jessica Henley to start the second half. The lineup change seemed to light a fire under the Gauchos, who held Cal Poly scoreless for the first 4:40 of the second half.
But while UCSB was smothering the Mustangs on the defensive end of the floor, Santa Barbara struggled to find its shooting touch on the opposite end. And with the Gauchos putting up bricks, Cal Poly managed to stay within striking distance, pulling to within one on a three-pointer from sophomore guard Paige Billingsley.
The Billingsley trey seemed to wake UCSB from its slumber, as the Gauchos used a 20-2 burst after the three to take control. Fisher started the spurt with a lay-up and contributed seven of her team-high 14 points during the game clinching run. Santa Barbara used the charity stripe to its advantage in the second half, making all 15 of its attempts – 26 for the game – compared to three and seven for the Mustangs.
The Gauchos will return to the court this Thursday when they travel to Irvine to take on the Anteaters at 7 p.m.