The UCSB women’s basketball team looked forward to this past weekend, determined to make a point that they’re the best in the Big West.
By defeating Pacific and Long Beach State, the Gauchos left no doubt that they are still the best in the Big West Conference, extending their conference winning streak to 49 games.
Santa Barbara relied on some unlikely sources for offensive punch Friday night, rallying twice from an eight-point deficit to defeat the Tigers, 77-64. Senior forward Rachelle Rogers poured in 21 points, and junior reserve guard Kristyn Miller scored two clutch baskets during a 28-7 second half burst that finished off UOP.
"Tonight I was just working really hard on my post-ups, and we were running plays to me so I could score," Rogers said after the game on 1250 AM. "I guess I proved something tonight."
Without the inspired play of Rogers – who has not lost a conference game in her Gaucho career – the Gauchos’ amazing winning streak might have come to a screeching halt Friday. Pacific opened up a 49-41 lead early in the second half. UCSB responded, cutting the Tiger lead to two at 49-47. Pacific then threatened to blow the game open by retaking their eight-point lead, 57-49.
But with their winning streak in jeopardy, UCSB went on a 12-0 run, capped by Rogers’ three- point play. After the heroics of Rogers, UCSB never let Pacific back in the game, with freshman center Lindsay Taylor and junior forward Kayte Christensen bringing home the victory down the stretch.
"I think tonight was a great game and a great win," Head Coach Mark French said on 1250 AM. "We’re going to enjoy this win tonight and tomorrow get ready for Long Beach."
UCSB prepared well for Long Beach State, while the Gauchos ripped their rivals 80-70 at the Pyramid. Christensen finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. With the impressive victory, Santa Barbara ended any talk of a letdown after the big win at Pacific.
"I was worried about an emotional letdown [after Pacific], but we all know that if we’re going to play well at Big West Tournament time, we’re going to have to play well in back-to-back games like these,"
French said on 1250 AM.
The Gauchos jumped out to an early 20-10 lead, but the 49ers rallied before a raucous crowd at the Pyramid, cutting the Gaucho lead to two, 22-20. Despite turning the ball over due to LBSU’s midcourt press, Santa Barbara silenced the Pyramid by going on a 13-3 run, with Christensen registering five points during the spurt. The two teams then exchanged baskets for the duration of the half, with the Gauchos taking a 32-31 lead into halftime.
UCSB jumped out to its biggest lead of the game at 54-42 midway through the second period. Yet Long Beach State was then able to put together one final push, cutting Santa Barbara’s lead 64-59 on back-to-back three pointers by Reta Sula and Lauren Bull.
But that would be as close as the 49ers would get, while Gaucho sophomore guard Jess Hansen, who finished with 15 points, answered with a trey of her own, extending the UCSB lead to eight. The 49ers would never mount a serious challenge after that and the Gauchos cruised to their forty-ninth consecutive conference victory.
"We’re playing very well right now," senior forward Nicole Greathouse said. "We’ve hit our stride and we’re just trying to improve every game."