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The UCSB women’s basketball team will look to ride the momentum created from its double overtime victory against Northridge Saturday when the team hosts last year’s winner of the Big West tournament, UC Davis, tonight.
The Gauchos are 8-9 overall and 3-3 in the Big West, sitting in a tie for fifth place. With a record of 12-6 and 4-2 in conference, the Aggies rank third. UCSB has lost five straight games to UCD dating back to 2009.
“We’re at home and you’re expected to win at home,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “I’ll continue to let them think that our backs are up against the wall because … we have a chance to win the conference.”
The key words at practice for UCSB this week are calmness and patience, especially on offense. The Gauchos’ offense, which has been inconsistent all season, will face Davis’ tenacious trapping defense. UCD currently leads the Big West in turnover margin at +5.39, with opponents throwing the ball away 20.3 times.
“They’re going to be very extended and aggressive on defense,” senior forward Kelsey Adrian said. “We just need to take care of the ball and not turn the ball over.”
Fortunately for the Gauchos, they rarely turn the ball over, leading conference with only 14.2 per game.
“We’re really just looking to remain calm and not [have] any unforced turnovers,” junior center Kirsten Tilleman said. “We want to be there for each other when we are trapped and be in the positions that will allow us to get out of it.”
There’s no doubt the Aggies defense is impressive, but it comes in second only to UCSB, which thrives on slowing down the tempo, allowing just 50.7 points per game.
UC Davis hopes to give the top ranked defense a run for its money with its Princeton offense, which features a lot of movement without the ball. Also, expect threes from UC Davis and expect them to fall. The team leads the league in three point shots made per contest, averaging 7.3.
“We know there’s lots of movement and lots of cutting, so we need to make sure we’re between them and the basket,” Adrian said. “[But we also] have to be out on the shooters and get our hands up.”
The Aggies are also unique in that they play a four-guard lineup.
“Sometimes that can be a mismatch when we’re trying to play Sweets and Tilleman,” Mitchell said. “Those two know they’re going to be guarding a guard all night long. You can’t go for steals, you can’t reach, and you have to keep them in front of you.”
However, this gives UCSB the rare opportunity to exploit a height advantage.
“We don’t usually have height advantages because we’re not a very tall team, so hopefully we’ll really work on our inside outside game, which will be very effective against a really high trapping defense,” Tilleman said.
The Gauchos should be able to get on the boards, too, against an Aggies team that falters at rebounding, grabbing the least amount of defensive rebounds in conference. UCSB features two of the top six rebounders in the Big West in Tilleman and junior forward Sweets Underwood.
“Every game rebounding is important, but especially if we have a height advantage, we better be rebounding even more than usual,” Tilleman said.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome.