The UCSB women’s basketball team reared its head to the Big West again Wednesday night, overwhelming Cal State Fullerton, 79-24, at the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos (15-8, 8-2 in the Big West) were coming off their most impressive win of the season against Stephen F. Austin, in which Santa Barbara seemed to regain its early season form. UCSB defeated SFA 62-57. The Gauchos were able to carry over the momentum and confidence gained in the game versus SFA, putting on a clinic against the Titans.
“These kids have a lot of heart,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “They are a great bunch of kids who want to finish strong, and it was great for them to play so well.”
The Gauchos fell behind early, with the Titans (1-23, 1-10) taking an 8-7 lead on two free throws from Chante Gifford with 15:04 remaining.
Santa Barbara then erupted, annihilating the Titans with a 32-0 run over the final 15 minutes of the half. The outburst started innocently enough on a jump shot by junior forward Kayte Christensen. Senior guard Rachelle Rogers added a layup, and freshman center Lindsay Taylor then finished a three-point play to extend the Gauchos’ lead to 14-8.
But UCSB was just getting started, with sophomore guards Jess Hansen and Debby Caine connecting on back-to-back three-pointers. Christensen then buried another jumper and Taylor added a pair of free throws to make the score 24-8, in favor of the Gauchos.
By the time it was all said and done, eight Gauchos had scored, led by Taylor’s nine points at the break, which were one point more than the whole score of the Titans. Freshman forward Lisa Willett contributed only two points during the run, but finished the game with 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.
“We tried to focus on defense and stay sharp the whole game,” Willett said. “We need to build on this win and keep playing well so we’re ready in March.”
Though well ahead, UCSB didn’t let up in the second period. After junior forward Danielle Robinson scored for CSUF, Santa Barbara reeled off 16 straight points, with Christensen scoring six during the explosion. Taylor then capped the combined 48-2 run with a three-point play, to bring the score to 55-10.
With the game well in hand, all that remained for UCSB was to get senior walk-on point guard Sheila Shilati her first field goal as a Gaucho. Santa Barbara did just that, as Shilati hit a 10-foot baseline jumper, which was met with resounding applause from the Thunderdome faithful.
“That’s our goal before every game,” Taylor said of getting Shilati in the game. “It was great to see her score. She works so hard in practice so she definitely deserves it.”
UCSB finished strong following the Shilati basket, outscoring the Titans 12-9 in the final seven minutes.
The Gauchos now hit the road to face Boise State and Idaho this weekend, and Santa Barbara can only hope to continue its high level of play.
“They will be ready for us, so it’s a tough trip,” French said. “It’s hard to play at both places, but not as tough as playing at SFA, so we’ll be ready.”