The UCSB women’s basketball team returns to the hardwood tonight in its second exhibition game of the season against Team Concept, a touring team of former college players.

The Gauchos emerged from the off-season a little sluggish in their season opener Monday night against Delta Kosice before pulling away with a 17-0 run in the second period for an 83-70 victory. Though it was victorious, Santa Barbara was by no means satisfied with its play in the opener and will look to build off its game-one performance.

Although UCSB is returning seven players from last year’s Big West Championship squad, including Big West Player of the Year candidate Kayte Christensen, the Gaucho roster also includes seven freshmen, making this year’s team one of the youngest in recent memory. Despite its youth, the Gauchos are also extremely talented, with one scouting service having ranked UCSB’s 2001-02 recruiting class as the fifth best in the nation. The freshmen demonstrated their skill in Santa Barbara’s first game of the season, accounting for 34 of UCSB’s 83 points. Leading the newcomers with 13 points was freshman forward Kristen Mann, followed closely by highly touted guard Mia Fisher with 12.

“Our freshmen played pretty well,” French said. “You can see their talent on the offensive side, particularly in the open court. We saw bits and pieces of why we are so excited [about them]. On the other hand, it always takes a while for them to adjust to our system.

In addition to the return of Christensen, the Gauchos retained two other starters from last year’s squad, junior guards Jess Hansen and Debby Caine. That trio will likely be joined in the starting lineup by sophomore center Lindsay Taylor, last year’s Big West Freshman of the Year.

Tonight’s game will also be a homecoming of sorts for former Gaucho Nicole Greathouse. Greathouse was a starter on last season’s championship squad and is currently a member of Team Concept. But while it will nice to see a familiar face, UCSB will be all business tonight at the Thunderdome.

“Defensively we need to get better, as well as in our half-court offense,” French said. “Team Concept is very athletic and strong on the boards, so we will also need to work on our rebounding. Those are the three areas that we will look to improve on [in tonight’s game].”