The #25 UCSB women’s basketball started the season with a victory on Friday night at North Carolina State and marked the ninth consecutive time that the Gauchos came out on top in their season opener.
Santa Barbara (1-0) defeated the Wolfpack (0-1) at Reynolds Coliseum 71-66 after overcoming a five-point halftime deficit. The Gauchos stormed out of the gate to start the second half, scoring nine straight points and taking the first lead of the game. UCSB then forced NC State to shoot just 27 percent from the field, including a 0-6 mark from behind the three-point line and finished with just 29 second period points. Prior to the loss to the Gauchos, the Wolfpack had a perfect 14-0 home record in season openers.
Getting off to a fast start in the season is important for any team but going into the Atlantic Coast Conference and downing a national power on their home court to start you year is truly a confidence builder.
“I think it’s important to preserve our national ranking,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “It will help our confidence to go on the road and grab a win against an ACC team and build our image as a national contender.”
Junior center Lindsay Taylor led the scoring for Santa Barbara. Taylor got into foul trouble early and was forced to start the second half with three fouls. The 2002 Big West Tournament MVP responded brilliantly however, and finished the contest by shooting 50 percent, tallying 16 points and pounding the glass for 11 rebounds. Three other Gauchos scored double figures. Sophomore forward Kristen Mann made up for her 3-11 poor shooting performance by getting to the free-throw line and sinking 7-8. Mann garnered 14 points on the evening and grabbed 11 boards. Sophomore guard Mia Fisher iced the game with a pair of free throws down the stretch. Fisher came off the bench to score 10 points on 4-9 shooting from the field.
“I was really impressed with Fisher, coming off the bench,” French said. “Mia had some spectacular moves out there that awed the crowd.”
Santa Barbara continues its road swing tonight as it takes on the University of Michigan at Chrysler Arena at 4 p.m. PST. The Wolverines opened up their season with a 75-66 win at home over Creighton on Friday night.
Michigan is extremely physical inside and will test Taylor and Mann in the front court. Junior forward Jennifer Smith scored 21 points on 7-11 shooting in the Wolverine’s first victory. Senior center LeeAnn Bies is 6’3″ and scored 11 points in Michigan’s victory over the Blue Jays on Friday.
“They [Michigan] are a big, strong and experienced team,” French said. “I think they will try to pound it inside against us, but we should be able to counter effectively.”