While senior day isn’t until Saturday, the UCSB women’s basketball team rode its seniors to an impressive 61-44 victory against Cal State Northridge, its 11th consecutive win against the Matadors.
The Gauchos improve to 6-7 in the Big West and 12-14 overall. Northridge drops to 10-4 in conference and 16-11 overall.
“[I was] excited to play and it’s senior weekend,” senior forward Kelsey Adrian said. “You want to have a good last weekend of play, so it felt good for it all to come together.”
Senior guard Emilie Johnson led the Gauchos offensively with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Adrian tallied 14 points and six assists. Junior forward Sweets Underwood and junior center Kirsten Tilleman each contributed nine points and seven boards.
“We went ahead and had our senior speech tonight,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “It’s about respect for the time they’ve put into this program and the ambassadors they’ve been on the court, community and in the classroom. So I [told the team], ‘leave everything on the court, work your behinds off for Kelsey and Emilie, and then someday you’ll be in their shoes and you’ll understand how they feel.’”
Overall, it was a complete game for UCSB, something the team has struggled with all year long.
“That was probably the most solid game we’ve had all year and hopefully it’s at the right time,” Mitchell said. “These guys have to feel good and feel very confident about what we did tonight against the number one team in the conference.”
As usual, the Gaucho defense — the best in the Big West — was tenacious, giving up just 44 points. For Adrian, the explanation for the defensive effort was simple: “That’s what we do.”
The Matador’s leading scorer, senior center Jasmine Erving, tallied 13 points, 11 coming in the second half while the Gauchos were in control. Freshman guard Janae Sharpe, who tallied 19 in the last matchup, was held to just nine.
“Man, defense is always about the rotation, the help-side and the on-ball pressure,” Mitchell said. “It’ll be a team effort even though Tilleman does an outstanding job with one-on-one defense. It’s all the other variables that have to go together to make it work.”
And the offense looked equally notable. UCSB shot a sizzling 51 percent from the field, including 53.3 percent from downtown.
UCSB also distributed the ball extremely well, setting a season high in assists and doubling up on Northridge 20-10, while committing just seven turnovers, a season low.
“It really came down to just trusting each other,” Johnson said. “We were making the extra pass. We knew where our teammates were going to be a couple seconds before the play, so we put ourselves in the position to score.”
After giving up the first basket, UCSB never trailed again and went into halftime with a double-digit lead. After halftime, the lead teeter-tottered around a 10-point difference. On several occasions the Matadors decreased the lead to nine, and just when it looked like they might get back into the game, UCSB mounted an 8-0 rally to ice the game.
UCSB will play its final home game of the season and celebrate its seniors Saturday with tip-off set for 2 p.m.