UCSB extended the nation’s second-longest home win streak to 24 games with an 82-44 win over the University of San Diego on Nov. 15 at the Thunderdome in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT).
“UCSB just has so many weapons,” USD sophomore guard Polly Dong said. “They are definitely a top-20 team.”
Junior forward Kristen Mann scored a game-high 15 points while grabbing eight rebounds, and senior forward Lisa Willett contributed 13 points in the Gauchos’ first win of the year.
Santa Barbara was sloppy to start the game, quickly giving up two points after senior guard April McDivitt had the ball stolen by Dong, and senior forward Marta Menuez scored the game’s opening bucket. But that would be the last time the Gauchos were behind in the contest, as Willett scored the game’s next two baskets and UCSB began to roll.
The game was tight midway through the first half until senior center Lindsay Taylor saw her first action of the season at the 12:31 mark. From that point on, Santa Barbara went on a 29-6 run to close the first half to head into the locker room with a 43-18 lead.
UCSB shot 56.3 percent in the first half and out-rebounded the Toreros 27-14.
The Gauchos emptied their bench in the second half, as all 11 healthy players played, and 10 scored points in the game. The Toreros wouldn’t get within 19 points of UCSB in the second half, as the Gauchos overpowered and out-played San Diego.
“We really believed we could come in and win this game,” Dong said, “We’d throw something at them, but we couldn’t take advantage of their weaknesses… but they knew how to take care of our weaknesses.”
UCSB Head Coach Mark French was not overly impressed with the big win and noticed room for improvement.
“I thought there were some ups and downs,” French said. “I was a little disappointed in the turnovers.”
Despite its 21 turnovers, perhaps the only other scar on Santa Barbara’s 38-point win was its woeful 53.3 percent from the free throw line.
“I don’t want to emphasize it too much because free throw shooting is often mental, but we may shoot a few more free throws in practice,” French said.
Santa Barbara received solid performances under the basket from junior forward Autumn Nichols and freshman forward Jenna Green. They scored 10 and nine points, respectively. Taylor also performed well in limited action, scoring nine points in only 11 minutes.
“We expected [Nichols] to be a strong player coming out of community college,” French said, “She’s a good player and she’ll get a lot of minutes.”
Sophomore guard Lindsay Helvey led San Diego with nine points, and Menuez grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
UCSB received a scare with seven minutes to go in the first half, when junior forward Kate Bauman sprained her right ankle in a scramble for a loose ball. Bauman returned in the second half on crutches, and the team is uncertain of her status for tonight’s game and in the future. The Gauchos were also without the services of junior forward Brandy Richardson after she suffered a concussion in pre-game warm-ups when she collided with freshman guard Erin O’Bryan.
The Gauchos host Utah in the second round of the WNIT on Monday, following the Utes’ disposal of Southeast Missouri State on Friday in their opening-round matchup.