After continuing its streak against Northridge last Saturday, winning its 13th straight against the Matadors, the UCSB women’s basketball team has another winning streak to defend tonight when the team tries for its 41st consecutive victory over Cal State Fullerton.
Dating back to the 1995-96 season, the win streak is the second best nationwide, trailing only Stanford’s 53 straight victories over Washington State. However, UCSB isn’t concerned with the streak, but continuing to win in order to earn a better postseason seed.
The Gauchos are currently in fourth place in the Big West at 12-14 overall and 8-6 in conference. Going into its final road trip of the regular season, Santa Barbara returns to where it’s most comfortable: the road. UCSB is 7-4 playing away from the Thunderdome.
“We know we only have four guaranteed games left,” junior guard Nicole Nesbit said. “This is when you show the maturity of a team — when you can close games out at the end of the season.”
Fullerton enters tonight’s matchup having lost nine of its last ten games and is in the conference basement at 4-10 in league and 8-18 overall. Nevertheless, UCSB knows it cannot take any team for granted.
“It’s not like we are going in to this game undefeated,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “Our kids understand that different teams present different problems and we had our hands full with Fullerton last time, so there’s absolutely no reason to overlook them.”
The last time these two teams met in the Thunderdome, UCSB took an early lead, but gave it up in the second half. With the score knotted up at 40, Mitchell made a five man line change, subbing in the reserves. They finished the game on a 12-4 run and earned UCSB a 60-50 win.
“We got complacent going into the second half,” senior center Kirsten Tilleman said. “That [can’t] happen, especially at the end of the season. Every team is vying for that spot at the tournament.”
Despite the win, a glaring statistic for the Gauchos was rebounding as the Titans outrebounded Santa Barbara 40-30, including 20-4 on the offensive glass, which resulted in 23 second chance points for Fullerton compared to just four for UCSB.
Therefore, rebounding will most likely be the biggest key to the game for the Gauchos. The Titans rank third in the Big West in rebounding margin at +1.6 and lead the conference in offensive boards with 17.9 per game.
UCSB features two of the best rebounders in the conference as senior forward Sweets Underwood ranks fourth in the league with 9.4 rebounds per game and Tilleman ranks ninth with 7.1.
Tilleman and Underwood will be crucial for the Gauchos inside offensively as well, as Fullerton is a smaller team known for its quick guards. In the last matchup, Tilleman scored a season-high 16 points on 4-7 shooting and the two combined for 26 points.
“Our philosophy is always inside out and we understand that when we establish our inside game early, it makes it a lot easier for our guards to get open jumpers,” Mitchell said.
Tonight’s tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of February 28th, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.
Photo by Mark Brocher of the Daily Nexus.