The UCSB women’s basketball team defeated Northern Arizona Friday 96-93 to win its season opener. Santa Barbara is 1-0 on the season while NAU starts the season 0-1.
The high-scoring contest for the Gauchos was led by freshman guard Sarah Bates, who had 25 points while going 12-16 from the free-throw line in her collegiate debut.
Senior forward Drew Edelman returned from nursing a sore thumb, scoring 24 for the Gauchos and added seven rebounds. Fellow teammate Sarah Porter scored 13 points on a rough night shooting, going 5-14 from the field and 2-9 from three-point range. The redshirt junior, part of a three-guard lineup coach Henrickson used Friday, also added seven assists.
While Porter struggled finding her shot against the Lumberjacks, Aliceah Hernandez was feeling it from deep Friday night. The sophomore guard made 5-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc, racking up 15 points.
Santa Barbara opened the game up aggressively, leading 27-21 at the end of the first quarter; however, the Lumberjacks found a way to turn things around before halftime. NAU’s ability to out-rebound the Gauchos 43-38, al while forcing 11 total turnovers were instrumental parts of its effort to stay in the game.
Additionally, big performances from Lumberjacks Olivia Lucero and Kenna McDavis powered Northern Arizona’s big offensive night. The duo of redshirt seniors combined for 47 points, with Lucero pouring on a game-high 26 to go along with a game-high 11 assists.
McDavis, a forward, went to work on the glass, grabbing a game-high 13 boards. UCSB scored 18 points in the quarter. With the momentum shifting, the Lumberjacks led 47-45.
After the break, Santa Barbara regained its composure, stepping it up offensively by utilizing its skilled forward in the paint. The Gauchos fed Edelman in the third quarter, allowing the redshirt senior to score nine in the period as part of a 30-point quarter to regain the lead.
UCSB’s bench outscored the Lumberjack second rotation 26-14, fueling a comeback of sorts after the lackluster second quarter. With Norther Arizona also having a strong offensive quarter, the 30-point quarter for Santa Barbara only gave the Gauchos a 75-72 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Gauchos demonstrated great composure down the stretch Friday, never trailing in the final quarter to the persistent Lumberjacks. Using a clutch three-pointer from Hernandez and free-throws from Bates, the Gauchos held on to win 96-93.
Despite the win, Santa Barbara got beat in the paint Friday, being outrebounded as mentioned and outscored in the paint 44-36. Notably, UCSB only forced five turnovers and failed to convert any of those turnovers into buckets while the Lumberjacks scored 14 points off turnovers.
While there’s obviously a learning curve one game into the season, it seems the Gauchos have all the pieces for success this year. Some tweaks on defense will need to be made, but the team’s mix of returnees and newcomers such as Bates makes UCSB a tough team to gameplan against.