Victory is sweet, but the taste of revenge is everlasting.
The #17 UCSB women’s basketball team avenged a Jan. 18 nine point loss to Pacific on Wednesday night by thrashing the Tigers 66-37 in the Thunderdome.
“It was nice for us to come out and make a statement,” senior guard Jess Hansen said. “We didn’t need much motivation for tonight’s game. We’ve been ready since the loss.”
Santa Barbara shook off some early jitters to wallop UOP from all aspects of the game. Sophomore swingman Kristen Mann led all scorers, dropping 17 and grabbing five rebounds. Mann has scored double-digits in all three games during Santa Barbara’s successful homestand. Over the last two weeks Mann, the 2001 Big West Freshman of the Year, has proven to be the answer for a Gaucho squad that needed a spark. UCSB, previously struggling through a mini mid-season slump, found the answer when Mann returned on Jan. 25 from a two-month forearm injury.
“It’s great for us to use Kristen,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “Since her return, we have really picked up the pressure and opened things up.”
UCSB, ranked in the top 19 in both major national polls, improved to 16-3 overall with a 9-1 Big West mark. The Gauchos continued to separate their narrow lead with the conference’s second-place team Long Beach State, who enters tonight’s game versus Cal State Fullerton with a 5-2 record in the Big West.
The Gauchos came out flat against the Tigers with sluggish defensive intensity and poor shooting from the field, holding on to a slim 11-9 lead with 10 minutes to go in the first half. Santa Barbara then rallied off a devastating 12-0 run, ending the half on a slick coast-to-coast, drive-in layup by senior guard Debby Caine.
“We executed early on pretty well, but then [Santa Barbara] got physical and the rest was history,” Pacific Head Coach Craig Jackson said. “It doesn’t matter if we meet them in the [Big West] tournament, anyone that wants to win it is going to have to go through them anyway.”
The Gauchos stifled UOP on the defensive end, holding the Tigers to just 17 points in the first half and just 37 overall, UCSB’s second lowest points allowed total this season. In Santa Barbara’s first encounter with Pacific in Stockton, the Tigers rattled off 74 points.
“Defensively, I was really concentrating on keeping [UOP junior guard Corinne] Wong in front of me,” sophomore guard Mia Fisher said. “Coach let me know that Wong had nine assists against us the last time, so I made sure to keep her in front.”
Sophomore forward Brandy Richardson notched a game-best 11 rebounds, upping her Big West-best 9.7 rebounds per game average. Richardson took a pounding down in the post, grabbing eight offensive boards and helping UCSB to force UOP’s top two post players, junior forward Gillian d’Hondt and senior forward Ahshalie Johnson, to foul out of the game in the second half.
“Being anywhere near Brandy down [in the post] is not a good thing to do,” French said. “She’s amazing; I really liked her aggressiveness.”
Sophomore forward Haddy Sarr returned Wednesday evening after resting her ailing knees for the better part of two games. Sarr played 17 minutes, grabbing three rebounds and played solid defense against d’Hondt.
“We just didn’t play with the same confidence and pride that we did during the first game [with UCSB],” d’Hondt said. “We’re looking forward to meeting them again in March.”