It was a special 40 minutes in the Thunderdome on Thursday night. It was the annual “Play4Kay” game, and the Gauchos sported pink in an effort to raise cancer awareness.
After facing Cal State Fullerton that previous Saturday, UCSB won its second consecutive game against Cal State Fullerton, defeating the Titans 78-59. It’s the eighth consecutive loss for the CSUF, as the Titans have now been swept by the Gauchos this regular season.
This win places Santa Barbara at 10-14 overall and 7-5 in the Big West. In contrast, the loss drops CSUF to 7-17 overall and just 2-9 in the Big West.
The Gauchos are now two games over .500 in the conference and are currently sitting at the fourth seed.
The Titans were shorthanded for the game, as their redshirt junior center Daeja Smith was out with an injury, and their freshman forward Carolyn Gill out with an illness.
UCSB redshirt senior forward Drew Edelman, coming off her third game with a double-double, came close to one yet again. Along with smashing down a game-high 20 points, she also grabbed 8 rebounds, which was also tied for a game-high, as she elevated the game for the Gauchos.
Senior guard Makala Roper started in place of injured freshman point guard Danae Miller, and nearly finished the game with a strong triple-double. She contributed 11 points, notched 7 rebounds, and tied her career-high of 9 assists.
The home team got out to an early lead, but its opponents stormed back to gain the lead and made the score 9-8 halfway through the first quarter.
It was all USCB from then on out, as Santa Barbara went on a run that carried its way well into the second quarter, and suddenly the score was 32-11. A lot of the run was attributed to Edelman’s eight points in the paint.
UCSB packed the paint and regulated it all night, keeping CSUF to just 18 paint points all game, compared to its dominating 38 points down low.
It was 41-29 at the end of the first half, and Santa Barbara looked to be in a commanding position.
The home team continued to heavily outscore its opponent for the remainder of the game, as the Titans only managed to get within an eight-point deficit, cutting the score to 50-42 at one point during the second half.
Santa Barbara held its opponents to a 21-for-61 shooting performance – a 34 percent shooting night – while it scored 28-of-55 shot attempts at an impactful 50 percent.
Despite having faced the Titans just five nights before, the Gauchos knew they couldn’t let their guard down against a team hungry for a win.
“It was about who was going to make the least amount of mistakes, and it was about who was going to do more of what worked for them in the last game and do less of what didn’t,” Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “We reduced the stretches where we don’t execute or do our job. If you’re trying to get it right, you will improve. And this group has really improved.”
Things in the Big West are heating up, and the Gauchos are beginning to pick up momentum. They’ve had some rough close losses along the way, but Coach Henrickson is certain that this team is determined.
“We know we have to sustain the effort and the intensity and the activity that it takes to be successful. We know we are who we believe we are,” she said.
The confidence is palpable with UCSB, and it will need to carry that into its next game agaiunst UC Irvine.
Santa Barbara will play its second consecutive game at home, as the Gauchos will host UCI at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Thunderdome.