There may be no “I” in team, but there is one player that the UCSB women’s basketball team will be focusing on tomorrow night when it hosts UC Irvine.
That player would be senior forward Camille Buckley, who is the current Big West Player of the Week after a pair of double-doubles last week, averaging 22.5 points and 13 rebounds.
During Big West play, Buckley puts up 20.4 points and 13.2 rebounds per game, good for second and first in the conference, respectively. She also shoots the most free throws per game in league games, earning over 10 shots from the charity stripe per contest.
“She’s a great player and I said it from day one, I think she has the chance to play at the next level,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “We have to make sure we limit her second chance opportunities. We may look to double, and that’s just out of respect for what she can do when she gets the ball.”
Following Buckley’s lead, the Anteaters rank second in the conference in scoring during league play at 73.6 points per game.
Last time these two teams met up in Irvine, Buckley was the biggest reason her team came away with the 77-60 victory. Buckley was dominant, scoring 27 points on 7-12 shooting, including 13-15 from the free throw line.
She also grabbed 15 rebounds, aiding the Anteaters in winning the rebounding battle 43-28. Santa Barbara currently ranks last in the Big West in rebounding at just 33.9 boards on the season. The statistic carries significant weight in the win-loss column too, with the Gauchos getting 39.9 rebounds in wins compared to 31.1 in losses.
“We have to make sure [Buckley] doesn’t touch it,” junior center Clair Watkins said. “That’d be the easiest way to make sure she doesn’t score. It’s going to be up to the post players to stay lower than her and be physical with her.”
While UCSB will throw multiple defensive looks at Buckley, Watkins will earn plenty of time on the dominant senior. She comes off a solid weekend herself in which she earned her first double-double last Saturday in Santa Barbara’s win over Cal State Fullerton. She scored 10 points and tallied 15 rebounds.
“Fullerton was more finesse and Clair had to guard guards and three-point shooters,” Mitchell said. “Now it’ll be a physical game, so I’ll be interested to see how she does because I think she’s understanding now that that’s what we have to have from her. That was the difference in the game.”
Last weekend, the Gauchos split their games, losing to last-place UC Riverside in the team’s most devastating loss of the year before rebounding for a victory over Fullerton. While inconsistency continued to plague the Gauchos in Riverside, UCSB came out strong and sustained its energy for the entirety of the game.
“We all were upset about the Riverside game, but we went into Fullerton with a chip on our shoulder and came out with a lot of energy,” senior guard Melissa Zornig said. “That’s what won us the game, so if we come with that same energy and mindset for Irvine, I think we should win the game.”
With three of the team’s final games at home, Santa Barbara has the opportunity to try to improve its seed for the conference tournament. At 8-17 overall and 3-9 in the Big West, UCSB currently stands in the eighth and final playoff spot, 1.5 games up on UC Riverside. Fullerton sits in a three-way tie for fifth place at 13-13 overall and 6-6 in conference.
“I think everyone’s still a little hurt from that Riverside game,” Watkins said. “That’s one we should’ve came away with fairly easily, but we have four games left. We have to get all of them. Each one counts more now than ever because we want to get into the tournament.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of February 27, 2014′s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.