College basketball is a 40 minute game. Playing effective basketball for anything less makes a victory hard to accomplish.
Coming out slow and falling behind by 19 points early in the first half, the UCSB women’s basketball team could never complete the comeback. Despite playing Cal State Northridge virtually even for 25 minutes, a bad start and the failure to finish the game strong against one of the best teams in the Big West resulted in a 78-54 defeat on the road.
“We didn’t set the tone early,” senior guard Melissa Zornig said. “We were trying to play catch up the entire game and I think that hurt us a lot.”
The loss marks the second to the Matadors this season and the first defeat in Northridge since 1984 for Santa Barbara as the Gauchos fall to 7-16 overall and 2-8 in the Big West. Northridge improves to 13-13 overall and 9-3 in conference.
From the tip, Mitchell went with a small lineup, which was successful Thursday against Long Beach State. Instead, UCSB paid the price on the boards, losing the rebounding battle 55-28. CSUN also destroyed Santa Barbara in second chance points at 26-9.
“They kicked our butts is what they did,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “(Junior center) Camille Mahlknecht on her own had (almost) as many rebounds as we had as a team. Our lack of block outs led to 26 second chance points and that’s the difference in the game.”
Leading Northridge was Mahlknecht. While she averages just 7.7 points and 7.7 rebounds on the year, she was the thorn in the Gauchos’ side, recording a season-high 21 points, a program record and career-high 22 rebounds and five blocks on a career-high 10 made field goals.
“We took all switches one through five, but I don’t think that was the issue. When we look at it, I think a lot of it will be high-low hits against our biggest post players,” Mitchell said. “That’s a mentality. She’s a good player, but she plays with a lot of heart and she understands her role. A lot of plays aren’t being run through her with the three great guards they have, so she’s finding a way to dictate the outcome of the game by getting rebounds and putbacks.”
The Matadors started the game right where they left off when they beat Cal Poly 83-57 Thursday. Against the Mustangs, Northridge went 11-22 from three point range. With Santa Barbara down 4-7 in the first half, Northridge went on a 10-0 run, starting the game 3-5 from downtown and shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
After Northridge’s lead reached its largest of the half at 19 points, Santa Barbara came alive. Fueled by the three Gaucho seniors, the team went on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to nine. Several times in the second half, UCSB came within nine, but could never get the needed play to break the barrier.
With just less than eight minutes remaining at the lead at that same nine point lead, the Matadors closed the door they had been leaving open for UCSB, going on a 19-6 run to finish the game.
“I remember we missed a couple easy shots,” Mitchell said. “That’s going to happen in the game of basketball, but at the end of the day, you need to sprint back and say, ‘okay, well now let’s get a stop.’ That’s the only way if things aren’t flowing smoothly on the offensive end is that you have to buckle down and get stops. We didn’t.”
For the Gauchos, Zornig led the team offensively with her first double-double of her career, tallying 21 points and a career high 11 rebounds. She shot 8-18 from the field, including 4-6 from behind the arc. Nesbit also added 14 points for UCSB.
“Mel is so consistent. I don’t know if she knows she’s near 1,000 points or not, but at the end of the day, she’s getting after it,” Mitchell said. “She’s doing it on both ends of the floor, but she’s carrying too much of the burden. We have to have other players willing to join her.”
The Gauchos will continue their three-game road trip next week when they travel to UC Riverside Thursday.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear int he print edition of the Daily Nexus.