After clamping the jaws of the Gators last week, the UCSB women’s basketball team must now try to tame the Lions.
Santa Barbara (2-1) tips off tonight against Loyola Marymount at 7 in the Thunderdome in an attempt to string together its first winning streak of the new season, two games.
The Gauchos are reeling off an impressive come-from-behind 73-70 overtime win in their home opener against the University of Florida on Nov. 29. UCSB, led by sophomore forward Kristen Mann and her term-high 18 points. Florida led for most of the contest, but Mann gave Santa Barbara its first lead at the 4:47 mark on a sweet bank shot. The Gauchos dominated the second half, outscoring the Gators 27-19 in the period.
“We just kept our poise and kept calm,” junior center Lindsay Taylor said. “We just thought about what we needed to do to get the lead and it all worked out in the end.”
Loyola (4-0) comes to town, having won all four games at home. The Lions defeated Cal State Fullerton 66-40 on Monday night to extend their hottest start in school history. Loyola will come at the Gauchos with a talented group of experienced girls. Senior forward and captain Kate Murray was named MVP of the Furama Hotel Thanksgiving Classic, hosted by the Lions. Murray blistered North Carolina State for 22 points, helping push the Lions past them in the championship. The Gauchos dismantled the Wolfpack in their season opener on Nov. 22 in Raleigh.
But UCSB may have to go against the Lions shorthanded. Mann, Santa Barbara’s leading scorer, will not suit up due to a hampering back injury. Freshman guard Karena Bonds may not play either due to sickness.
“Loyola is coming off a good start,” senior guard Debby Caine said. “We’re going to be short manpower, so with people being out, [sophomore forward] Brandy [Richardson] and [junior guard] Lisa [Willett] will have to step up for us.”
The Gauchos dropped out of The Associated Press National Top-25 this week after a devastating loss to the University of Michigan. Santa Barbara squandered a huge first-half lead and failed to score past the 4:34 mark in the second half. A win would surely get the Gauchos back on track in the national spotlight and prepare the squad for the teams that follow. After Loyola, UCSB takes on perennial National Championship contender Purdue in the Thunderdome on Dec. 17.
Santa Barbara has produced a balanced offense to start the season. The Gauchos have four players averaging double-digits in points. Taylor has yet to string together a complete game, offensively. The 2002 Big West Tournament MVP has been limited as a scoring threat due to early foul trouble, forcing the 6’8″ center to play more tentatively in the paint. Taylor has continued to play strong defense, however, averaging a staggering 10 rebounds per game.
“This program has a tradition of strong rebounding,” Taylor said. “We have been know for it in the past, but in order to win [against LMU] we are going to have to continue to do it.”