The UCSB women’s basketball team entered yesterday’s game against Long Beach with a 1-7 Big West record. It showed up to play looking like a team that was 7-1.
Taking the mentality that they were 0-0 as they entered the second round of conference play, the Gauchos came out with vengeance, cruising to an 80-69 victory over Long Beach State.
Offensively, Santa Barbara looked fresh and explosive, recording 80 points, the second-most during the Carlene Mitchell era. On the defensive end, the Gauchos’ defense returned to its tenacious nature, forcing Long Beach into 22 turnovers.
“We played pretty close to a perfect game,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “At the end of the day, we lost at their place by 18 and we came back tonight and won by 11, but I really felt like we won by 20 just by the way jumped on them early and never let them get back into it.”
Never trailing, Santa Barbara took control from the tip. On the very first possession, Zornig dove on the floor, earning the jump ball call. She drained a three on the other end to give Santa Barbara a 3-0 lead and from there, UCSB never looked back.
The Gauchos jumped out to an 11-0 lead, allowing Long Beach just two shots and forcing six turnovers in the first three minutes. The 49ers remained scoreless until the 16:37 mark.
“Coach Mitch told us before the game that we’re 0-0 going into this game and not to worry about our record,” senior guard Melissa Zornig said. “We brought energy this game. In the first half, we set the tone and kept it up most of the game.”
UCSB stretched its lead to 21 points less than 60 seconds into the second half, its largest lead of the game, and coasted to the easy victory. With the win, UCSB improves to 7-15 overall and 2-7 in conference. Long Beach drops to 13-11 overall and 5-5 in the Big West.
Like the Gaucho squad from earlier this season, Santa Barbara used its defense to fuel its offense. UCSB hassled Long Beach defensively, forcing 18 of the 49ers 22 turnovers in the pivotal first half. They even gave Long Beach a taste of their own medicine, winning the steals battle 9-2 against the Big West’s best team in picking their opponent’s pocket.
The turnovers allowed the Gauchos to turn to their best offense, pushing in transition. UCSB scored 22 points off Long Beach’s turnovers and outscored the 49ers 32-10 in the paint. They also outscored the 49ers in second chance points 17-6.
“[The transition game] was huge,” senior guard Nicole Nesbit said. “We love to run. I mean, who doesn’t? When we get out and run, we know it’s going to be our best offense and it’s just fun.”
For the first time during Mitchell’s rein, five players finished in double-figures for Santa Barbara. Zornig led the team with 18 points and seven rebounds, but it was a true team effort as all five starters had solid evenings.
“I’m smiling, especially with the assist to turnovers and the fact that we attacked and got to the free throw line,” Mitchell said. “We just have to continue to grow and get better. We’ll test ourselves on Saturday and see if we can go two games back to back.”
The Gauchos hope to ride their momentum Saturday when they travel to Cal State Northridge. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.