After losing its first game of the season last week at #5 Texas Tech, the road doesn’t get any easier for the #16 UCSB women’s basketball team.
In just their fourth game of the year, the Gauchos play their third ranked opponent of the season tonight at 7 in the Thunderdome against #21 University of Arizona. With a win over the Wildcats, Santa Barbara would extend the nation’s second longest home win streak to 26 games.
Santa Barbara (2-1) is attempting to rebound from a 68-41 loss suffered at the hands of the Red Raiders in the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. Texas Tech eventually won the tournament, defeating Rutgers 73-45 on Sunday.
Junior forward Kristen Mann has been the leading offensive threat for the Gauchos early in the season. Mann is averaging 10.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, leading the team in scoring in each of UCSB’s two wins.
Santa Barbara has also received significant contributions from its two newcomers, senior guard April McDivitt and freshman forward Jenna Green. McDivitt leads the team in assists, averaging 3.7 per game and Green is second on the team in rebounds, averaging six per game.
Arizona (1-0) is coming off of a 89-67 thrashing of Northern Arizona on Saturday to begin its season. Four players scored 19 or more points as the Wildcats won their eighth season opener in their last nine tries.
“Defensively we stepped it up and offensively we took good shots,” Arizona Head Coach Joan Bonvicini said. “We didn’t rebound well and that is something we’ll need to improve upon.”
Sophomore center and All-American candidate Shawntinice Polk lead the team with 25 points and also pulled down five boards against NAU. The 6’5″ Polk averaged 17.4 points and 10.1 rebounds per game last season and enters the year as a John R. Wooden Award candidate.
“[Polk] is a very important part of our offense,” Bonvicini said. “She does a lot of things well for us and is a big presence on the court.”
The Wildcats also received a career best performance from sophomore forward CoCoa Sanford, as she scored 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field.
“She is undersized for the post but I was very impressed with how she played,” Bonvicini said.
It appears the key to stopping Arizona is holding its high powered offense under 80 points. The Wildcats are an imposing149-21 when scoring more than 80 points during their 32-year history.
Arizona is the first of two 2003 NCAA tournament teams the Gauchos will face during the week. Santa Barbara hosts Illinois on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.