The #21 UCSB women’s basketball team must love stop-and-go driving because it refuses to trade in the flashy stick shift hot rod that it has driven all season long for the consistent automatic sedan capable of making the long trip.
In an inconsistent showing, Santa Barbara (8-2 overall; 2-0 in the Big West) handed the Matadors (0-13; 0-2) a 73-41 pounding in its conference home opener and ran its streak at home to 15 consecutive games.
For most of the evening, the Gauchos showed signs of brilliance, getting plenty of reserves involved in an effort to rest their starters against the unassuming Matadors. Tuesday night’s contest was supposed to be a practice session for Santa Barbara to show that it could string together 40 straight minutes of worthy basketball.
“I really wanted to rest my players and I didn’t want anyone to play even 30 minutes,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “We were very inconsistent tonight, but we got the job done.”
The numbers show a complete Gaucho domination, however. Seven players recorded six points or more for Santa Barbara, including a commendable effort from sophomore forward Haddy Sarr. Sophomore forward Brandy Richardson showed her strength on the glass again, pulling in 11 rebounds. Junior center Lindsay Taylor notched a game-high 19 points and added five rebounds, while junior guard Lisa Willett scored 15 and tallied eight boards. Willett has come on strong since getting more playing time due to the absence of injured sophomore swingwoman Kristen Mann. Freshman guard Karena Bonds notched six points and seven rebounds, two more than the 6’8″ Taylor.
“I just decided to go for it tonight,” Bonds said. “I relaxed a little bit and decided to go out there and just play basketball.”
Santa Barbara shot nearly 50 percent from the field, including 44 percent from three-point range. A stifling UCSB defense prevented the Matadors from consistently getting anything done offensively by forcing 17 turnovers and limiting Northridge to 31 percent shooting from the field. At times, UCSB slowed things down offensively, running a motion offense to find the open perimeter shot. Senior guard Jess Hansen benefited, nailing four out of six three-pointers.
First-year Matador Head Coach Tammy Holder has had a frustrating stint so far at Northridge. In an attempt to clean house, Holder brought in an entire new coaching staff and formed a squad with 10 newcomers. Freshman forward Ofa Tulikihihifo scored 15 points on 7-12 shooting in 35 minutes for the Matadors.
“It is an honor for our rebuilding team to come here with a strong effort against a nationally ranked team,” Holder said. “It is a coach’s dream to work with athletes like Santa Barbara has. Inside and out they can score.”
After leading37-22 at the half, the Gauchos stormed out with a commanding 18-4 run mid-way through the second half to put the game out of reach. Northridge scored just 19 points in the second half. Over its last four games, the UCSB defense has been keeping opponents to a measly 45-point average per game.
The Gauchos still have two more games to play this week. Santa Barbara welcomes nonconference USC to the Thunderdome on Thursday evening and then conference-leading Idaho on Saturday night.