The UCSB women’s basketball team is looking to pelt Irvine with some tough love tonight in the Thunderdome, and instead of bathing the Anteaters in roses, they hope to shower them with jumpers.
The Gauchos are coming off a shocking 76-70 loss to Cal Poly on Friday night, Feb. 9, which ended their 49-game conference-winning streak. Santa Barbara is eager to get back on a winning track, starting with the Anteaters, which they beat 70-58 earlier this season.
"We’ve been ready to go since the locker-room discussion after the Cal Poly game," junior forward Kayte Christensen said. "We’re not going to let that happen again. Now it’s a pride thing."
UCSB (13-7 overall, 7-1 in the Big West) has gone through two normal days of practice to prepare for UCI (11-13, 2-7), and should come out focused tonight. The Gauchos admittedly did not approach the Cal Poly game with their normal intensity, looking at the lowly Mustangs as just another blip on the radar. Santa Barbara needs to be careful not to fall into the same trap against the Anteaters, which are next to last in the Big West.
The loss to Cal Poly has served as a wake-up call for the Gauchos, forcing them to accept the fact that this team may not be as accomplished as clubs in the past. And with only a half-game lead over both Pacific and Long Beach State in the conference standings, the Gauchos know they must approach each game seriously if they are to head into the Big West Tournament as the number one seed.
"We know that we’re better than all the teams in the Big West," senior forward Nicole Greathouse said. "If we come out and play how we’re capable of, no one can beat us. The challenge is to do it night in and night out."
UCSB has been hurt by turnovers all season, and the Cal Poly game was no different; the Gauchos coughed the ball up 28 times. Head Coach Mark French said last Wednesday that for Santa Barbara to play well down the stretch it must not have hands of clay.
"If we take good care of the ball, if we go into the Big West Tournament and turn the ball over 15 or 16 times, we’ll be a very difficult team to beat," French said. "But if we turn the ball over 25 times a game then we’re setting ourselves up for an abrupt end to our Big West season."
Although no team ever hopes to lose, senior guard Rachelle Rogers said Sunday that the Cal Poly game might have been a blessing in disguise, inspiring the Gauchos to play with passion against each opponent.
"Hopefully everyone will realize that we’re not as talented as in the past," Rogers said. "We can’t just rely on our talent, and now we know that we’ve got to play hard every game."