UCSB women’s basketball will seek revenge Saturday afternoon against Pacific, which stunned the Gauchos at home last season in the first round of the playoffs to end UCSB’s season.
With a 51-47 loss to UC Davis yesterday, the Gauchos dropped to 8-10 overall and 3-4 in conference. The Tigers are also 3-4 in conference but 10-9 overall.
“It’s a new year, it’s a new season and we’re a new team,” senior guard Emilie Johnson said. “They’re a new team. We’re going to come ready and fired up. I’m looking forward to getting back on the court because I know we all have the feeling of … not good.”
The Big West’s best defense and offense will square off in Saturday’s contest. UCSB allows only 50.7 points per game and holds its opponent to 36.5 percent from the field, also a league best.
However, while the Gauchos like to slow down the tempo, Pacific wants to score. They average 71.1 points per game.
“Pacific’s going to be just more reminders and refreshers on things because they’re like other teams we’ve already faced,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “If we play like we did in the second half [against Davis] and bring that to the first half of Pacific and we have forty (complete) minutes, I’ll feel real good about our chances.”
Like UC Davis, who found success from behind the arc, Pacific likes the three point shot. The Tigers are second in the Big West in three point field goal percentage.The scoring for Pacific came from multiple players. Three of the top nine scorers in the Big West are Tigers: Erica McKenzie, Ashley Wakefield, and Kendall Rodriguez. The three each average 12 points per game.
“They’re a very athletic team and they’re going to create some problems in some matchups,” Mitchell said. “But if we worry about us, then we’ll be okay.”
Pacific takes advantage of their athleticism, which on the defensive end results in steals. The Tigers lead the league in this category.
The game against the Tigers could also serve as payback for a home loss to UC Davis last night. Despite an ugly first half that left the Gauchos trailing by 18 at halftime, UCSB mounted a comeback that almost succeeded.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately the game is for 40 minutes. If we had brought the effort that we brought to the floor in the first half like we did in the second half, we would’ve had a chance to win.”
A different UCSB team showed up for the second half and immediately took momentum with an 8-0 run. They chipped away at Davis’ lead throughout the final 20 minutes, holding the Aggies to 18 points in the second half, and found themselves down just three with 24 seconds remaining.
“Any time you hold a potent scoring team like Davis to 18 in the second half … you’d think you had won the game,” Mitchell said.
UCSB was forced to play the fouling game, and lost, as Samantha Meggison converted her free throws down the stretch. Meggison shot 8-10 from the line and finished with 15 points.
“The kids decided to play and that’s all I can say,” Mitchell said of the comeback. “They wanted to win, but they have to understand that you’re playing great teams and also when you’re at home, you can’t dig yourself into a whole.”
Turnovers plagued UC Santa Barbara against the tenacious, trapping defense of UC Davis. The Gauchos threw the ball away 21 times.
The Aggies also killed the Gauchos with treys, especially in the first half, shooting 54.5 percent. UCD leads the league in three pointers per game with 7.3.
“When one player makes one, the basket seems to get a little bigger,” Mitchell said. “Give them credit because they’re shooters and that’s what they do. But it seemed the second half our hand was there a little bit quicker.”
Johnson was UCSB’s best player for the night with 13 points, six assists, and three steals. Nesbit also added 11 points. But it was the Aggies’ Hannah Stephens that led all scorers with 16 points, including 4-5 from downtown, although 14 of those points came in the first half.
“She got that first three and that set the tone, so that’s on me,” Johnson said. “Give credit to Davis because they came out to play the first half. We’re going to put it together and we’re going to continue to fight.”
Tip-off tomorrow against Pacific is set for 2 p.m.