Sarah Porter dribbles the ball, looking for a pass. Christina DeMarzo / Daily Nexus

With non-conference play wrapped up, the UCSB women’s basketball team will look to carry its momentum into Big West play.

The Gauchos closed out 2017 with a bang, as they crushed New Mexico State by 30 points, their largest margin of victory this season. In spite of recent struggles highlighted by nine straight losses, UCSB has now won two games in a row to give them an overall record of 3-9.

The team’s record places the Gauchos in seventh place of the Big West Conference standings prior to the start of conference competition.

Although Santa Barbara’s slow start hasn’t been the type of season the team wished for, it will look to continue to improve when it host Long Beach State this week. Thursday’s game against the 49ers seems like it will be a favorable matchup for UCSB, as Long Beach is in the midst of a five-game slide and sit at 2-12 overall this season.

Regardless of their sub-par record, the 49ers are being led by promising freshman Shanaijah Davison. The 5’8 guard is averaging a team-high 11.9 points per game, and put up 29 points versus USC earlier this season.

With seven freshmen on the Long Beach roster, another promising player has been 6’5 center Emma Merriweather. Only a freshman, Merriweather has recorded an impressive 22 total blocks in addition to averaging 9.2 points and 5.7 boards per contest. Long Beach will be eager to snap their losing streak when it faces UCSB, but the Gauchos have some talent on their roster as well.

As a redshirt senior, forward Drew Edelman hasn’t slowed down, leading the Gauchos through their rough patch with 15.2 points and just over 8 rebounds per game. Edelman has performed closer to her ability lately, posting a 25 and 10 double-double in Santa Barbara’s win over San Diego State while she continues to be a vocal leader for her team on both ends of the court.

UCSB has some promising freshmen of its own, with first-year guard Sarah Bates coming up big in recent contests. Bates has scored in double figures in her last two games and is playing big minutes as a freshman, averaging a little over 25 minutes per game.

Thursday’s contest between the 49ers and Gauchos will interestingly enough be a repeat of last year’s Big West Tournament championship game. Long Beach squeaked out the win over UCSB in a nail-biter, so the Gauchos are likely eager to redeem themselves on top of extending their winning streak.

The action will tip off at the Thunderdome on Thursday, Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. as UCSB looks to earn just its second home victory this season.

Win or lose against the 49ers on Thursday, Santa Barbara will have a short break before hosting rival Cal Poly at the Thunderdome for an afternoon contest on Saturday.

The Mustangs have had their respective ups and downs this season, sitting at the .500 mark with a 6-6 record. Cal Poly will visit UC Riverside Thursday before heading to the Thunderdome. The Mustangs have been led by the senior duo of sisters Dynn and Lynn Leaupepe.

The Leaupepe duo features Dynn scoring 15.7 ppg and Lynn averaging a close 14.1 ppg. UCSB was torched by Dynn in last year’s January game, as she scored a season-high 29 points in the Mustang victory so the Santa Barbara coaching staff will undoubtedly work towards containing her on the offensive end.

The Blue-Green rivalry game will tip off at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 6 as the Gauchos and Mustangs will both be looking for bragging rights in addition to improving their records.