If Friday night was meant to be a homecoming party for former Gaucho standout Nicole Greathouse, then the UCSB women’s basketball team got it all wrong, because they were the ones having all the fun.
But thankfully for Santa Barbara, it was a basketball game, not a celebration, that broke out at the Thunderdome Friday night, a game in which UCSB cruised to a 93-55 victory over Team Concept and the aforementioned Greathouse.
The Gauchos’ impressive victory, the final exhibition game of the season, was a dramatic improvement over their game-one victory over Delta
Kocise. Senior forward Kayte Christensen led five Gauchos in double figures with 17 points.
“I was very impressed with our kids tonight,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “[The victory] was a big step forward. I think we really improved, and that’s what this team is going to be like.
Santa Barbara jumped out to an early 12-0 behind the hot shooting of junior guard Jess Hansen. Hansen jump-started the Gauchos with a three-pointer just 13 seconds in, which was followed by a pair of free throws from Taylor and a layup from junior guard Debby Caine. Hansen then struck again, scoring five straight points on a jumper and another trey.
Team Concept managed to rally from its 12-point deficit, pulling to within seven at 16-9 on a three-pointer from Greathouse. UCSB then put together another run, this one an 18-2 spurt to go into halftime with a 45-26 lead.
Santa Barbara’s sizeable advantage enabled the Gauchos to play the second half with a little more abandon and it showed in their passing. With UCSB leading 65-36, freshman guard Mia Fisher brought the crowd to its feet with a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to Taylor, who then finished the play with a layup. Minutes later, it was Hansen who got into the act, bouncing a pass behind her back to Taylor, who whipped the ball to senior forward Kristyn Miller for a four-foot jumper and an 83-48 lead.
After the game, the talk was about the creative passing from Fisher and Hansen.
“I’m not sure who that pass was going to, but it ended up in a white jersey, so that’s all you can ask for,” French said of the Hansen pass.
“It just got contagious,” Fisher said. “Fast-breaking like that makes the players happier and it makes the fans happier.”
Unfortunately for UCSB, it will take more than fancy passing when the Gauchos open their regular season schedule on the road against 2001 WNIT participant Western Kentucky at Stanford. However, this young squad appears to be making strides toward reaching its potential.
“It helps to have more than nine players,” Hansen said referring to the Gauchos’ lack of depth last season. “Having a deep bench is a huge advantage because all of us can come in and run. It took a while to get it going, but when we did the crowd loved it and it was fun.”