Behind a career night from senior forward Sweets Underwood, the UCSB women’s basketball team handily defeated Cal State Northridge 66-55 at home. The win was the 13th consecutive victory over the Matadors.
Breaking a two-game home losing streak, the Gauchos improve to 12-14 overall and 8-6 in the Big West, holding on to fourth place in the conference standings. The Matadors, meanwhile, drop to 13-14 overall and 7-8 in league.
“There are just certain teams you just match up well against,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “For some reason, we tend to step up when it’s time to play them.”
Leading UCSB to victory was Underwood, who tallied her 11th double-double of the season with 19 points and a career-high 20 rebounds.
“I owe it to my teammates,” Underwood said. “They give me the ball where it’s easy to score. [As for rebounding], that’s just my focus every game is to really crash the boards and rebound.”
The Gauchos showed why they are the best defensive team in the Big West in the first half, holding the Matadors to just 14 points. Santa Barbara forced 14 turnovers and held a 14-0 points off turnovers advantage while holding Northridge to 23.1 percent shooting from the field.
“Their guards want to dribble penetrate and get to the paint and either get to the free throw line or kick for threes,” Mitchell said. We’re pretty disciplined most of the time when guarding that style of play.”
After two disappointing losses to Cal Poly and Hawaii in its last two games, UCSB came out hot, jumping out to a quick 8-0 advantage. The Gauchos continued to extend their lead, taking a dominant 34-14 lead into halftime.
However, to open the second half, the tables turned and it was CSUN that came out on the attack, going on an 8-0 run. Using its press and picking up the defensive intensity, the Matadors forced nine UCSB turnovers in the first 10 minutes.
“When you’re up, and you start playing not to lose or not to turn the ball over or not understanding when to attack sometimes that messes with your mind a bit, and that did with our guards for a short spell there,” Mitchell said.
Even with a momentum switch, the game was still in the Gauchos’ control as the lead remained in double digits. Northridge continued knock on the door though, knocking down three consecutive treys with 2:28 remaining to close the gap to 10. In the second half, Northridge was 7-15 from behind the arc.
Nevertheless, Santa Barbara hit eight of its 10 free throws down the stretch to clinch the 66-55 victory.
“Probably the only negative for me (today) was the last five minutes, giving up so many threes,” Mitchell said. “We have to find a way to put teams away and let the scoreboard really show how we controlled the game form the tip to the final buzzer.”
Overall, the Gauchos shot 43.4 percent from the field. Recording 18 assists on its 23 field goals, the 66 points were UCSB’s second-highest point total of the season.
Along with Underwood’s standout performance, junior guard Nicole Nesbit contributed 11 points and a team-high five assists. The bench was also key for UCSB, tallying 21 points. In fact, nine of the 10 players that stepped on the court for the Gauchos scored at least three points.
UCSB will now embark on its final regular season road trip, traveling to Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside.