The UCSB women’s basketball team received a wake-up call earlier this season in the form of back-to-back Big West losses to Cal Poly and Irvine.
The Gauchos had become a bit complacent during their 49-game conference winning streak, and perhaps a couple of defeats were just what Santa Barbara needed. Since the losses, UCSB has reeled off four straight victories. Beginning with its win at Stephen F. Austin, the Gauchos have regained their swagger as they head into their two biggest games of the season. Santa Barbara will face Pacific tonight at 7:30 and Long Beach State on Saturday for the right to be named regular season Big West champion.
"The game against SFA gave us time together that we used to recommit ourselves," UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. "That win gave us renewed emotion, confidence and execution, which we’ve been able to carry over."
UCSB will also honor its three departing seniors this weekend, with guards Rachelle Rogers and Sheila Shilati, as well as forward Nicole Greathouse, playing their final home games in a Gaucho uniform.
"It will be really fun and at the same time really emotional," Greathouse said. "I’m definitely looking forward to the games this weekend."
Santa Barbara (17-8, 10-2 in the Big West) defeated both the Tigers (16-9, 9-3) and 49ers (15-10, 10-2) earlier this season in heated contests, and the games this weekend promise to be just as intense.
After playing four games in seven days, UCSB practiced sparingly this week, using practice time to fine-tune its game.
"We practiced Tuesday and Wednesday, but didn’t have individual workouts," French said. "We also worked on rebounding and our offensive execution, trying to take care of the little things."
Playing in place of a sick Greathouse, freshman center Lindsay Taylor upped her game last weekend, recording a double-double against both Boise State and Idaho.
"Lindsay has been stepping it up the entire second half of the season," French said. "We knew that she would be a great player when we signed her. She’s definitely getting more confident and is having a great freshman year."
Santa Barbara will be hoping for a repeat performance from Taylor this weekend, as it knows that the games will determine the seeding in the Big West Tournament. Winning both games would make UCSB the #1 seed, meaning that the contests are of the utmost importance.
"We know that we have to play well in these two games to win the conference," junior forward Kayte Christensen said. "It puts a lot of pressure on us, but at the same time helps us with our focus and emotion."
Tip-off tonight has been delayed 30 minutes to 7:30 p.m., in order to allow students to attend the candlelight memorial service.