UCSB women’s basketball opened the regular season with a pair of losses this weekend at Pepperdine and #15 UCLA, losing 68-56 to the Waves on Friday and 66-52 to the Bruins on Sunday.
“We can take a lot from this weekend and learn from it,” junior guard Emilie Johnson said. “I feel like we played well enough against Pepperdine that we should have won. I am excited to get back out there.”
Down 31-21, the Gauchos allowed the Bruins to go on an 18-0 run early in the second half to go up by 29. UCSB followed up with a 22-6 run to close the gap, but couldn’t overcome a tough UCLA defense that forced 23 Gaucho turnovers.
“Absolutely, we need to take better care of the ball,” Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “UCLA’s defense forces a lot of turnovers, but there are no excuses. We have good guard play to control the ball so we need that to be key to score more and not turn the ball over.”
Johnson led the Gauchos in points and assists with 14 and four, but she also committed a team high six turnovers. Sophomore guard Sweets Underwood added nine points for the Gauchos, while senior center Mekia Valentine was held in check with two points and six rebounds.
“We put those turnovers on ourselves,” Johnson said. “UCLA put good pressure on us, but we made passes that we don’t normally do. We need to take better care of the ball. We need to get better in our next game. Turnovers and mistakes are what can happen when playing UCLA.”
UCLA shot an efficient 43.8 percent on field goals, but only 12.5 from the three-point line. UCSB on the other hand shot 37.7 percent from the field and 25 from behind the arc.
“I think in spurts we really competed with them,” Gottlieb said. “We showed we can play at this level. I feel UCLA is a legitimate top 15 team and they were a tough opponent. We just need to sustain the play for 40 minutes.”
Friday night’s game against Pepperdine proved to be a challenge for UCSB as well. After trailing by only three at half time, the Gauchos failed to stick with the Waves, being outscored 37-28 in the second half.
“We have to get tougher, mentally and physically,” Johnson said. “We have to have a mentality of getting it done. What is important is being fighters and getting it done on offense and defense.”
Adrian nearly had a double double against Pepperdine with 11 points and nine rebounds. Johnson led UCSB with 15 points making seven of 14 shots, but only one of five from behind the three point line. Valentine added three points and seven rebounds, and freshman guard Melissa Zornig added nine points for the Gauchos, as well as leading the team with three assists.
“Collectively we need to be tougher. We need to sustain our team intensity for 40 minutes and be the aggressors and make the other teams respond to us and our play,” Gottlieb said. “Our goal is to be a complete team. If facing pressure we need to break the press, if they put two defenders down low on Mekia we need to be able to pass it out to the perimeter and knock down shots. Overall, we need to be a complete team on offense. And on defense we need to know how to stop everyone, no matter our opponent.”
The Gauchos next game is on Thursday, Nov. 18, at 1 p.m. at the Thunderdome against Portland State.