The #21 UCSB women’s basketball team must prove that its recent, shocking loss to Pacific last week was merely an aberration.
The Gauchos (11-3 overall, 4-1 in the Big West) will face Riverside on the road tonight at 7 in the Student Recreation Center. The Highlanders (4-11, 1-3) will entertain Santa Barbara, which is coming off a disappointing 74-65 loss at the hands of UOP on Saturday that snapped the Gauchos 31-game conference win. The Tigers, coincidentally, handed Big West bumpkin Cal State Northridge its first win of the season.
“We’re very eager to play our next game,” junior center Lindsay Taylor said. “After losing to Pacific, we really want to come out on top. We don’t need to show anyone else in the Big West but ourselves.
Taylor is coming off a nine-point effort against the Tigers, the first time in 11 games that the 6’8” post from Arizona did not score double-digits.
Santa Barbara fell three spots in the AP poll and two in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll this week. UCSB currently holds down the #21 spot in both national rankings.
Sophomore guard Mia Fisher keeps on shining, though. Fisher, the Big West leader in field goal percentage, shot 50 percent against the Tigers and sunk 7-9 free throws for 19 points. Fisher understands that the season is a long stretch, and that the Gauchos cannot afford to lose many games in a weak conference.
“I didn’t even know that we had snapped such a big win streak. I don’t want to lose anytime,” Fisher said. “Anytime we go somewhere to play, we are going to try to give our best showing.”
The Gauchos would certainly love to welcome back one its best players. Sophomore guard Kristen Mann, who has been sidelined for all but three games this season due to a fractured arm and back pain, has been cleared by doctors and has returned to practice.
“I practiced for about a half hour [on Tuesday] but I don’t want to jump into things too quickly,” Mann said. “I probably won’t play on Thursday.”
Mann, the 2002 Big West Freshman on the Year, has had to weigh her options after the unexpected injury.
“I might have to redshirt,” Mann said. “I don’t want to have to do it because it’s killing me not be out there. I just don’t know yet.”
The Gauchos have not lost consecutive games since Nov. 17 and 20, 2001 to NCAA Sweet 16-bound Stanford and Penn State.