It’s way too early to blame it on fatigue.
Playing on consecutive nights to open the season, the UCSB women’s basketball team came out with a bang in a 90-78 victory against Western Kentucky before it was overmatched by #9 Stanford in the championship game of the Stanford Invitational, losing 87-64.
The Gauchos received a career performance from sophomore Lindsay Taylor against WKU, as the 6’8″ center poured in a career-high 27 points and pulled down career-high 14 rebounds in only 29 minutes of action. Celebrating her 21st birthday, Kayte Christensen also got in the double-double act, recording 19 points and 10 boards. UCSB has now won eight straight season openers, dating back to the 1994 season.
“The whole weekend we did some good things and we did some bad things,” Christensen said. “We played poor defense against Western Kentucky, but we lucked out because we were the better team. Stanford is a good team, but I have no doubt we can play with them.”
Santa Barbara jumped out to an early 10-3 lead over the Lady Toppers on Friday, using a stingy defense to hold WKU scoreless for the first 7:20 of the game. Behind that tight ‘D,’ UCSB extended its lead to a game high 16 points on two free throws from junior point guard Debby Caine late in the first half, before going into half time with a 45-33 advantage.
Looking to put the game away early, the Gauchos came out strong at the start of the second period. But the Lady Toppers would not go down quietly and cut the UCSB lead to seven on three occasions, including pulling to with 78-71 with just over four minutes remaining. Freshman forward Kristen Mann, who finished with 14 points in her first game as a Gaucho, provided a number of clutch baskets down the stretch to secure the victory.
“My teammates were really looking for me and that helped a lot,” Taylor said of her tremendous night. “I got a lot of good looks close to the basket.”
Any visions of a 2-0 start and an upset victory quickly disappeared in the championship game against Stanford. After going up 2-0 on a Christensen layup, the Gauchos failed to record a field goal for the next eight minutes, falling behind 19-7. Stanford senior forward Lindsey Yamasaki led the charge for the Cardinal, scoring 13 early points to extend the Stanford lead.
The Gauchos mounted one rally late in the first half, pulling to within six on a pair of free throws from sophomore forward Lisa Willett. But Stanford would close the half with a 19-6 run to take a commanding 49-28 lead into the locker room.
Santa Barbara used a 7-1 spurt early in the second half to trim the Cardinal lead to 12. However, the Gauchos were done in by 16 second-half turnovers and at no point in the second period were they able to cut the deficit to single digits.
“Our team’s emotion wasn’t what we needed [against Stanford],” senior forward Kristyn Miller said. “The score took us out of the game and maybe we didn’t play that hard until the final buzzer.”
UCSB will get another shot at upsetting a top-20 team when it plays #18 Penn State tomorrow in its home opener at the Thunderdome. The game will be a rematch of last year’s contest in which the PSU topped the Gauchos 81-68 at University Park, Pa.
“We are very excited for [the Penn State game],” Miller said. “Practice on Monday will tell us what we want to be as a team. That game will really show us where we are at.”