With a victory last night over UC Riverside, the UCSB women’s basketball team has won three consecutive games for the first time this season.
The Gauchos improve to 5-6 in the Big West and 11-13 overall, while the Highlanders drop to 3-10 in conference and 5-20 overall. Having swept the season series against both UCR and Cal State Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara has virtually guaranteed themselves a spot in the Big West tournament.
“We’re feeling good and we’re very excited because it’s our first set of three wins in a row,” junior guard Destini Mason said. “We’re going to be focused to get a fourth.”
While the scoreboard reads just a 10 point victory for UCSB, the final score doesn’t tell the story of the game, in which the Gauchos had control from the opening tip.
“I think [we] understand the sense of urgency with where we’re at in the season,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “You can never just look at a team and their record and Riverside had nothing to lose. I asked them to come out focused. “
Four players finished in double figures for the Gauchos in the third consecutive game in which UCSB has found successful offensive flow. Senior guard Emilie Johnson led team with 12 points, five rebounds, and five assists while Mason contributed 11. Junior forward Sweets Underwood and senior forward Kelsey Adrian finished with 10 apiece.
“We’re much more confident, we’re getting a really good flow, and we’re knocking down shots when we’re open,” Mason said. “If [we] have four players in double figures, we’re going to win the games because we’re stopping people defensively.”
Adrian, who has been held scoreless in two of the last three games, opened up the ball game with a three. Mason, who was playing in front of friends and family, followed in suit with another trey and the Gauchos quickly jumped out to a 14-4 lead.
“This game, every time I shot, I thought, ‘this [is] going in’,” Mason said. “With my first shot, I was like, ‘this is it.’ I was very excited when it went it and it carried on throughout the game.”
UCSB, which is known for its slow starts, was red hot, opening up the game 4-6 from the field and 2-2 from downtown. At halftime, the Gauchos were shooting 41 percent from the field.
“We’re taking good shots,” Mitchell said. “Plus, we were pushing the ball in transition and getting layups is great for their confidence.”
The Gauchos also stuck to their bread and butter, playing tremendous defense and holding UCR to 15.4 percent shooting in the first half. Their 12 first half points was the fourth lowest opponent total for a half in Gaucho history.
“Our kids were on it,” Mitchell said. “Last game we gave up some early shots, so we worked on making all their looks contested shots. It was a total team effort in the first half.”
UCSB didn’t miss a beat entering the second period and mounted an 11-0 run to bury UCR. However, the Highlanders generated a comeback and the Gauchos watched a 21 point lead diminish to just 10.
“When we’re up 21, we can’t let them up back in the game,” Mason said. “If it was a better team, they would’ve taken advantage of that. We can’t be content, and I think we got a little content.”
While Mason kept Riverside’s star, junior guard Tre’Shonti Nottingham, in check in the first half with just three points, she finished with 16. Although she only shot 3-13, she made 9-10 from the line.
“[Stopping Nottingham early] was the number one key to the game,” Mason said. “That was the only thing I was thinking about. I knew she liked to get to the basket so I wanted to make sure she didn’t get to the basket. Also, I think we did great team wise because the guards were great with helping.”
Next up for UCSB is a road game against UC Irvine Saturday. The Gauchos will seek revenge after a poor showing in the last match-up, a 61-53 loss.
“They’re extremely athletic and I think our team will remember what they did to us last game,” Mitchell said. “They’re in the middle of the pack, so we’re going to have to have a more complete effort. We can’t have those let downs late the game.”
Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. at the Bren Events Center.