The UCSB women’s basketball team came up short Friday in its quest for revenge, falling to Fresno State 84-76. Fresno State, a very good team that received votes in both preseason top 25 polls, beat the Gauchos at home last year 71-54, setting a school record with 16 completed three-pointers in the process. Knowing it would take a high scoring effort to win, Santa Barbara pushed the tempo and matched their season high in points from a year ago. However, it was not enough to earn the victory.
“We knew coming in they were a top 25 caliber team,” Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “They can score off the dribble drive as good as any team in the country.”
This year, the Gauchos have the personnel to consistently compete in high-scoring games. In the past, they would prefer to play games in the 50s or 60s, but this season they feel that they can compete in these types of higher scoring affairs.
“We are capable of playing in the 70s,” Gottlieb said. “The emphasis since the beginning of this year is to play faster, and we feel this features the skill sets of our players this year a little better.”
Their high-octane offense was on full display Friday. Throughout the first half, the two teams battled, with the lead changing several times. Fresno State ended the first half on a 14-4 run, executing their drive-and-kick strategy that was so effective in the game last year.
Early in the second half, the Gauchos took a 49-45 lead but failed to protect it. The Bulldogs ran off a 19-4 run to take a nine-point lead with roughly nine minutes remaining. Santa Barbara would get as close as six on separate occasions but could not close the gap.
The Gaucho offensive attack was led by senior guard-forward Jordan Franey, who set a career high with 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting. Junior forward-center Mekia Valentine poured in 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while sophomore point guard Emilie Johnson added 13 points, five assists and five boards.
Up next for the 0-1 Gauchos is a tough road game tonight versus Nevada. The Wolf Pack is 1-0 after a season opening 63-39 win over Cal State Monterey Bay. While it is important to learn from previous games, Gottlieb knows that in a long college basketball season, a team must learn from the past but not linger on it.
“We are excited to be on the court again,” Gottlieb said. “That’s the beauty about basketball: You don’t need to wait a week to play again.”