Apparently acclimated to the warmth of Santa Barbara, it took the #17 UCSB women’s basketball team a little longer to warm up for its match against Idaho in the cold.

Frostbitten in the first half against the Vandals, the Gauchos responded in the second period, storming back from an early deficit by shooting 65.4 percent from the floor. Santa Barbara sparked the second-half comeback with an 8-0 run with 12 minutes left to play to regain the momentum. The Gauchos cruised to a 70-58 victory on Saturday night against Idaho to improve to 17-3 overall and 10-1 in the Big West.

Trailing early against the Vandals, UCSB shot a paltry 27.6 field goal percentage and played poor defense. Idaho sophomore Keisha Moore scored the Vandals’ first 11 points to start Idaho’s offensive frenzy. After Moore’s explosion, the Vandals followed suit and started nailing shots from long range. The Vandals scored on their last six three-point attempts to end the half, including three from freshman guard Autumn Fielding. Idaho ended the half with a 15-5 run and hit the locker room with a 29-24 edge.

The Gauchos responded, however, from one of their worst shooting halves this season with one of their best. Sophomore swingman Kristen Mann led the charge for UCSB, scoring 12 of her team-high 15 points in the second half. Senior guard Debby Caine scored 12 points while dishing out six assists.

UCSB’s defense, after allowing the Vandals’ shooting brigade to continue firing home shots early in the second half, prevented Idaho from scoring a field goal for nearly a 10-minute span.

With the win, Santa Barbara maintained its lead in the Big West. Heading into the contest, the Gauchos clung tightly to a marginal two-game lead in the conference with plenty of teams in striking difference. Although second-place Long Beach State (10-10, 7-2) won its game over the weekend, teams in the Big West are quickly realizing that they are running out of games to make up ground on UCSB.

After a grueling 13-game stretch since Jan. 1, Santa Barbara steps aside from its familiar competition for a two-game hiatus from Big West foes. In games scheduled to prepare the Gauchos for the level of national competition that they will encounter in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, Santa Barbara will focus on a pair of powerhouses. UCSB heads to Champaign, Ill., to meet the University of Illinois on Thursday and then to Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday night to face #5 Louisiana State University.