The Vandals came to the Thunderdome in hopes of stealing a victory from UCSB, only to find a staunch police squadron of Gauchos waiting to extradite them back to Idaho.
The #21 UCSB women’s basketball team capped a rigorous, five-day, three-game homestand by downing the University of Idaho 72-57 on Saturday night in the T-dome. The stretch also concluded a seven-game run that spanned just 15 days, in which UCSB went 6-1 and established itself as a consistent weekly pick in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Polls.
The Gauchos are riding a five-game winning streak and improved to 10-2 overall and 3-0 in the Big West Conference. Santa Barbara lit the nets on fire, shooting 60.9 percent from the field, the second best in school history.
“I was pleased with our intensity, especially finishing three games in five days,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “We think we can do things that we’ve never done before. I think this team has a chance to go a long way.”
Nearly all the Gauchos were on fire against the Vandals. Junior center Lindsay Taylor shook off a poor shooting performance against the University of Southern California by nailing 8-10 shots, including two back-to-back, second-half three-pointers from the top of the arc. Taylor finished the game with 20 points, five rebounds, and three blocked shots. The Chandler, Ariz. native tallied her 141st career block, good enough to equal second place in the all-time UCSB record book.
“Lindsay’s a great shooter at anywhere on the court,” senior guard Debby Caine said. “It’s great to see the other team’s faces when someone as tall as Lindsay nails threes.”
Sophomore guard Mia Fisher followed suit by hitting 6-8 shots for 13 points, including several acrobatic moves at the hoop. Fisher put on the shake-and-bake with the ball all night long, juking the Vandals with her crossover dribbles and off-speed moves into the lane.
“She’s such an exciting player,” Idaho Head Coach Mike Divilbiss said. “I think as a team, [the Gauchos] look better than last year. They are a more confident group that doesn’t rely on any one player to run the offense.”
Junior guard Lisa Willett and sophomore forward Brandy Richardson added 11 points apiece for the Gauchos. Richardson, who shot a pristine 4-4 on the field, demanded the ball in the post and is beginning to establish her presence on the offensive end.
Richardson, the team’s leading rebounder and strongest defender, scored 11 points in Thursday’s win over USC.
Willett has played considerable minutes the last few games, filling in for injured sophomore swingman Kristen Mann.
“To be honest, I can’t wait for Kristen to come back,” Willett said. “She’s a great player and we are excited to have our team reunited and more talented.”
Santa Barbara backed its offensive explosion with a stellar zone defense. The Vandals could not find any alleys to penetrate, settling for poor perimeter shots with the shot clock often winding down.
“The key to our zone is having Lindsay in the middle,” French said. “She allows us to be successful in a zone setup. The pressure in the middle of the zone allows us to get out and contest everything.”
After a well-deserved break, UCSB resumes play on Thursday night in Northridge by taking on CSUN. The Gauchos pummeled the Matadors 73-41 in their first meeting last week in the Thunderdome. Santa Barbara also hopes to extend its 30-game conference winning streak.