While the train might not be at full steam, it’s certainly out of the ditch and back on track.
Although it wasn’t pretty, the #21 UCSB women’s basketball team dispelled UC Riverside 70-58 on Thursday night at the Student Recreation Center. Desperately needing a win after a shocking upset by Pacific on Saturday night, the Gauchos (12-3 overall, 5-1 in the Big West) managed to win the seesaw battle over the Highlanders (4-12, 1-4).
“We’ll take the win anytime but we could have played a lot better,” sophomore guard Mia Fisher said. “In the Big West, everyone is gunning for us. [Riverside] definitely wanted to beat us tonight.”
Senior guard Jess Hansen broke out of a recent shooting slump by nailing 6-10 shots, including 4-7 from the land of three. Hansen led all scorers with 20 points, playing a hefty load with 36 minutes.
Sophomore forward Brandy Richardson, who pulled down just two rebounds against the Tigers last weekend, registered a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards. Richardson, primarily a defensive weapon for Santa Barbara, nailed down 4 of 8 shots, the second most attempts for the Gauchos on the night.
As a team, the squad shot nearly 59 percent, limiting their opponents to just 35 percent from the field. The Gauchos are still managing to let their opponents rake in the points, however. Halting its opponents to average under 45 points per contest in the first four games of Big West play, UCSB has allowed that mark to balloon over the last two games to 66 per game.
“Defensively, we really thought that we would come out tough tonight,” Fisher said. “There is no doubt that we’re the same team that can hold people to under 45 points per game.”
For a team that’s prided its storied program on tenacious defense and powerful rebounding, Santa Barbara has veered away from its roots the past couple games. After getting out-rebounded against the Tigers, the Gauchos registered just three more boards than the Highlanders.
For the moment, Santa Barbara remains in second place in the Big West since Long Beach State added another victory last night by crushing one-win Northridge 72-59 at the Pyramid. LBSU improved to 4-0 in conference while the Gauchos sit closely behind with a 5-1 record.
UCSB ends its four-game road swing on Saturday night when they take on Cal Poly at 7. The Mustangs (7-8, 3-2) are currently third in the Big West and are considered by some to be the second-best team in the conference behind the Gauchos.