The #21 UCSB women’s basketball team realized that winning a war with the women of Troy required defending its territory and claiming the battle of the trenches.
The Gauchos (9-2 overall, 3-0 in the Big West) defended their home winning streak on Tuesday night by knocking out USC. Santa Barbara manhandled the Trojans (6-9, 1-4 in the Pac-10) in nearly all aspects of the game, but clearly the difference was the domination by the Gauchos on the glass. Sophomore forward Brandy Richardson raked in a career-high 17 rebounds, including 12 in the first half which was more than the entire Trojan squad during the period. UCSB out-rebounded USC 49-28 in the win.
“We are seeing why she is the three-time High School Hawaii Player of the Year,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “It was a great effort on the glass tonight for us.”
The Gauchos finally got it going late in the first half after playing sloppy basketball full of turnovers and loose ball confusion. With 5:25 to play in the opening half, Santa Barbara finished the half on a 13-0 run. The Gauchos did not stop after halftime. UCSB stormed out of the gate and lengthened the run to an amazing 24-2 advantage over 12 minutes of basketball.
“We were really fired up for this one,” senior guard Debby Caine said. “It’s kind of a rivalry so we knew that we would have to bring everything we had.”
Five Gauchos posted double-digits offensively. Sophomore guard Mia Fisher scored a game-high 17 points on 5-6 shooting from the field and 7-7 from the charity stripe. Prior to UCSB’s games this week, Fisher was ranked first in the Big West in field goal percentage, an amazing statistic considering the mark is usually held by post players who get easier shot opportunities under the glass.
“I just shoot the ones I know I’m going to make,” Fisher said. “I don’t try to force anything. Over the season, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t.”
Along with Fisher, Richardson scored 12 points, finally breaking into some offensive rhythm which the coaching staff knew was vital for a victory over the Trojans. Junior guard Lisa Willett overcame eight turnovers by grabbing eight rebounds and scoring 11 points, while Caine and junior center Lindsay Taylor chipped in 10 points each.
“Everybody did a great job tonight,” Richardson said. “As a team we did a really good job of sticking to our game plan.”
The win marked the first time in school history that both the men’s and women’s basketball squads swept USC on the hardwood.
Santa Barbara will try to complete the trifecta, a third win in five days, by concluding its three-game homestand on Saturday night against Idaho at 7 in the Thunderdome. The Gauchos will also try to win their 17th straight home game.