In her first game in the blue and gold of Santa Barbara, senior guard April McDivitt proved she was worth the wait.
Playing in her first competition since the 2002 NCAA Final Four in Tennessee, McDivitt led the #10 Santa Barbara women’s basketball team to an 87-71 win over the Latvian Select Monday night at the Thunderdome.
“We have all been watching her practice for a year, and I don’t think anyone was surprised with her performance,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “She’s really been chomping at the bit to get out there and she does a lot of things really well. Our fast break is going to be a much bigger part of our game this year.”
McDivitt was the catalyst of a Gaucho offense that looked in midseason form and finished the night with 13 points, on three of six from the field, five assists and four rebounds. She also went one for two from behind the arc and six of six from the free throw line with only one turnover in 25 minutes. McDivitt did most of her damage in the first half, scorching Latvia for 11 points and four assists, playing all but six minutes of the half.
“It’s great to have UCSB across my chest. I thought it was a good outing overall, but we have a lot to work on; we don’t want to be peaking right now.” McDivitt said. “The chemistry is good. The fast break really worked well; it’s a lot of fun to go out on the break and play basketball.”
The Latvians hung close to start the game as forward Sanita Dvinska punished UCSB with seven points in the first eight minutes. But powered by tough defense and rebounding by freshman forward Jenna Green, the Gauchos pulled to a 24-17 lead midway through the first half.
Reminiscent of show time from the Los Angeles Lakers of the ’80s, Santa Barbara’s offense overwhelmed Latvia during the remainder of the first half with an array of dazzling passes on the break to jump out to a 49-34 halftime lead.
“As I expected, our offense is ahead of our defense – we’re very talented offensively. I thought we had moments of real brilliance offensively tonight,” French said.
Latvia and UCSB traded baskets throughout the second half as the Gauchos emptied their bench. Six players finished in double digits in points as ten players received time on the court. Junior guard Kristen Mann and senior center Lindsay Taylor didn’t play due to injuries, but Green and senior forward Lisa Willet still contributed solid performances.
Green got the start in her first game at UCSB in place of Taylor. The freshman from Archbishop Mitty HS in San Jose finished the night with eight boards: seven on the defensive end and 13 points on six of seven from the field.
“I think Jenna is going to be a very fine post player for us,” French said. “She does a lot of things fundamentally very well; she’s very smooth. She comes from a great high school program, so not only is she big and athletic, but fundamentally sound. She does a lot of things that are going to guarantee a great future here at UCSB.”
Despite their impressive debut, French admitted the Gauchos still have work to do on the defensive end.
“Defensively we didn’t box out very well,” French said. “We can’t meet our potential without becoming a really good defensive team and a really good rebounding team. I’d give us a C- in both of those areas tonight.”
Willet reiterated the need for better defense.
“I thought we did a good job on offense – we are obviously very talented, but we have a long way to go on defense,” Willet said.