After being held to just six points in the first quarter, the UCSB women’s basketball team outscored Cal State Northridge 64-38 in the remaining three quarters of Thursday’s game to defeat the Matadors 70-58.
Sophomore guard Makala Roper nearly notched her first career double-double as she led UCSB in scoring with 15 points along with a career-high eight assists.
Despite tallying her eighth consecutive double-double, CSUN freshman center Channon Fluker’s game-high 31 points and career-high 19 rebounds was not enough to prevent the Gauchos’ resurgence. Fluker was the only Northridge player to score within double-figures, finishing 10-23 from the field and 11-14 at the free-throw line.
The Gauchos improved to 10-16 and 7-5 in the Big West, matching its overall win total from the past two seasons. Northridge fell to 6-19 overall, 4-7 in conference play.
After scoring its first field goal at the 9:30 mark of the game, UCSB was unable to score its next basket until 3:40 remained in the first quarter. While UCSB struggled shooting the ball, CSUN managed to go on a 15-2 run. Helping establish this run was Fluker with nine points in the first quarter as CSUN ended the first period with a 20-6 lead.
Despite being held to just six points in the first quarter, UCSB answered with some lockdown defense of its own, holding CSUN to just six points in the second quarter.
“We put good pressure on the guards on the perimeter and made things uncomfortable,” Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “Our double was good. We turned [Fluker] over three times, got a travel. Just to be disruptive always creates some offense from defense.”
Santa Barbara forced 24 turnovers, recorded 14 steals, and outscored CSUN in points off turnovers 30-10.
The Gauchos’ stout defense helped to resolve their cold shooting start to begin the game as they went on a 7-0 run to open the second period which brought them within a single-figure deficit of 13-20. As UCSB’s scoring run expanded, it ended the second quarter outscoring CSUN 24-6. Prompting UCSB’s scoring stretch was its improvement from behind the three-point line.
After going scoreless from beyond the arc in the first 10 minutes of Thursday’s game, Santa Barbara sunk four of its six three-pointers in the second quarter. Igniting the Gauchos’ long-range shooting was freshman guard Coco Miller with two three-pointers. She concluded Thursday with 13 points on a 5-13 overall and 2-7 three-point shooting effort.
A make from behind the perimeter by senior guard Dioseline Lopez brought the Gauchos within one-point of CSUN’s lead at 22-23.
In spite of its 0-5 three-point shooting start in the first quarter, UCSB remained committed to its shot selection from beyond the perimeter.
“I always tell those two [Roper and Miller] to shoot until your arm falls off,” Henrickson said. “Even if you’ve missed three or four, we all expect the next one to go and they have to have that mentality.”
With a 27-26 lead, it was a three-pointer at the buzzer by Roper that shifted the momentum to UCSB’s advantage while extending the Gauchos’ lead to 30-26 at the half.
“It all started with our defense, especially because we had a slow start,” Roper said. “Coach [Henrickson] really emphasized pressure on the defensive end in getting us better looks on offense.”
Roper capitalized off the buzzer shot, scoring UCSB’s first field goal of the second half from beyond the arc while her last three-point basket of the game with 1:15 in the third handed the Gauchos their first double-figure lead of the game at 46-36.
For the remainder of the game, Northridge trailed by a double-figure deficit. Its ability to get to the free-throw, where it made 11-14 in the second half, did not permit it to keep up with UCSB’s scoring pace.
Although Fluker registered 19 of her 31 points in the second half, the Matadors were overcome by the Gauchos’ 51.6 field goal percentage in the final two quarters. In addition to Roper and Miller, senior guard Jasmine Ware’s 5-10 shooting performance and total of 10 points off the bench helped UCSB secure its 70-58 victory.
Next on UCSB’s schedule is Long Beach State this Saturday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. The 49ers endured an 83-58 loss to UC Riverside Thursday night, bringing them to 18-7 overall and 7-4 in conference play. UCSB, currently in fifth-place of the Big West standings, could tie LBSU for fourth-place in the conference with a victory on Saturday.