Slow starts are very difficult to recover from in the game of basketball. Not only do they give the opponent a cushion and momentum, but they also give the other team confidence for the remainder of the game.
The UCSB women’s basketball team fell in a deep hole early, going down 15-2 to UC Davis to start and never recovering, falling 65-47 at home.
“With a team like Davis that shoots it so well, if you let them feel good early by letting them knock down shots, you’re in trouble because then they’re just playing with confidence,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “That’s a big hole to dig ourselves out of. We did it early in the year against a Seattle team, but you can’t expect to do that against a team that shoots it so well from three.”
The Gauchos struggled from the opening tip in every aspect of the game. Offensively, UCSB failed to find an offensive rhythm against the Aggies’ zone defense, turning the ball over nine times and taking poor quality shots. In the first half, the Gauchos shot 39.3 percent from the field.
“They were changing up their defense. We haven’t seen a 3-2 [zone] yet this year,” senior guard Melissa Zornig said. “We were trying different things, but we had a lot of unforced turnovers. We were just playing scared. We weren’t attacking like we normally do. We settled for jump shots. Our game is to attack and if we don’t attack, we struggle.”
On the defensive end, Santa Barbara struggled to contain the bigger, stronger Davis team. The Aggies got into the lane with ease and each time UCSB did get the game into single digits, the team couldn’t earn the critical defensive stop.
Davis shot 56 percent from the field in the first half and outscored UCSB 14-4 in the paint. On the game, the Aggies also outrebounded the Gauchos 41-34.
“Some of them were just straight line drives,” Mitchell said. “When they’re a great three point shooting team, it stretches your man defense, and the so the weak-side help was slower getting there than it typically would be.”
After going down by 13 just over five minutes into the game, the lead was extended to 18 points late in the first half.
Opening the second half down by 14, the Gauchos played UC Davis virtually even at 26-24. In fact, Santa Barbara had the momentum with 7:28 remaining when UCSB completed a 7-2 run to bring the gap to 13 points, but approximately 10 seconds later, junior center Clair Watkins fouled out, sparking a 13-4 run for Davis.
“The big run early set the tone,” Mitchell said. “We’d get [the lead] down to 10, 11 or 12 and couldn’t get it below double figures.”
Watkins finished the afternoon with 11 points while Zornig led the team with 12 points and three assists on 5-10 shooting. While Watkins and Zornig combined for 10-21 from the field, the rest of the team struggled, going 10-41.
With the loss, the Gauchos fall to 8-19 overall and 3-11 in conference with just two games remaining. Nevertheless, with UC Riverside falling to Cal State Northridge, Santa Barbara maintains a one-game lead for the eighth and final playoff spot. UC Davis improves to an overall mark of 13-14 and 8-6 in conference.
“We control our own destiny,” Mitchell said. “If you can win a road game [next week], that’s great, and you come home and a lot of things can happen on senior day.”
UCSB will play its final two games of the regular season next week, traveling to Hawaii Thursday before returning home for Cal Poly on Saturday.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of March 3, 2014’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Photo by Cameryn Brock of The Daily Nexus.