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Usually when Head Coach Carlene Mitchell makes her patented five-man line change, she’s looking for an increase in intensity, which is exactly what she got.
After blowing a 10-point lead and watching the score become a 40-40 tie, Mitchell inserted the five reserves. Together, they put together a 12-4 run to earn the UCSB women’s basketball team a 60-50 win, its 40th straight over Cal State Fullerton.
Santa Barbara’s 40 game win streak dates back to the 1995-96 season and is the second longest win streak against a single opponent in the nation.
With the victory, the Gauchos move into a tie for fourth place in the Big West with a 5-4 conference and 9-12 overall record. The Titans, on the other hand, drop to 3-6 in league and 7-14 overall.
“Typically when we win, I can say it’s a total team effort, but today I can say it and truly mean it with the numbers,” Mitchell said. “Today, the second unit helped us pull off this win, so I’m extremely proud of the focus and intensity they came in with.”
Pacing Santa Barbara offensively was senior center Kirsten Tilleman, who exploded for a season-high 16 points on 4-7 shooting and 8-8 from the free throw line. She also contributed a game-high eight rebounds.
“I just wanted to win,” Tilleman said. “The disappointing loss from Thursday (against ninth place Riverside) was fresh on our memories and we wanted to go out there and play with a lot of intensity.”
Down 5-3 to start the game, senior forward Sweets Underwood converted a three-point play to spark an 11-0 run for UCSB. By halftime, the Gauchos extended their lead to 28-18. Fullerton’s 18 first-half points mark the seventh time this season UCSB has kept an opponent to fewer than 20 points in the first half.
As Fullerton is a team known for its quick guards, the Gauchos took advantage inside, using their high-low game to open up the offense. On the game, Tilleman and Underwood combined for 26 points and 15 of UCSB’s 28 first-half points.
“We understand we have to go inside out,” Mitchell said. “It allows the guards to settle down and knock down open jumpers.”
Although, up 10 in the second half, offensive boards and second-chance points allowed Fullerton to climb back into the game. They went on a 14-4 run, knotting the game at 40 apiece with 10:16 to go.
On the game, Fullerton outrebounded Santa Barbara 40-30, including 20-4 on the offensive glass, which resulted in 23 second-chance points for the Titans compared to six for UCSB.
“We’re lucky to have pulled this game out giving up 20 offensive rebounds,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes we had mismatches but there’s no excuse. At the end of the day, we do rebounding drills every day, so I don’t care if you’re 5’2’’ blocking out 6’5’’.”
With the score tied, Mitchell inserted her bench, which immediately upped the intensity. Freshman guard Jasmine Ware stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for a lay-up, jump-starting a 12-4 Gaucho run.
“I want the ones coming off the bench to know that you always have to be ready and have your mind in the game,” Mitchell said. “I saw that they were ready to compete and weren’t backing down, so I was going to go with them.”
Overall, the Gauchos outshot the Titans 52.6 percent to 27.6 percent.
Next for UCSB is a road trip north to Davis Thursday and Pacific Saturday.
A version of this article appeared on page 5 of February 4th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.