For the first ten minutes of the game, the UCSB women’s basketball team’s 25-game home win streak looked as if it was going to end against #21 Arizona. For the next 30 minutes, the Gauchos looked as if they weren’t going to a lose a game for the rest of the season.
Powered by a season-high 23 points and eight rebounds from Lindsay Taylor, Santa Barbara (3-1) defeated Arizona 73-63 Tuesday night in the Thunderdome.
The game started off rough for the Gauchos as Arizona (1-1) began hitting three-point shots at will. With the help of four three-point baskets, two from senior guard Aimee Grzyb, the Wildcats built a 19-13 lead with 12 minutes to go in the half. But the Wildcats’ three-point luck soon ran out and UCSB caught on fire.
Aided by a suddenly resurgent transition game and ten first-half points from Taylor, the Gauchos went on a 24-7 run to close off the first half. Senior forward Lisa Willett and junior guard Mia Fisher each contributed seven first-half points as the Gauchos shot 48.4 percent from the field.
“The first five minutes I thought we played great,” Arizona Head Coach Joan Bonvicini said. “But then we started throwing three like I don’t know why.”
Santa Barbara extended its lead to 61-40 with ten minutes to go, but Arizona wouldn’t go away. The Wildcats pulled to within ten points at 66-56 with five minutes to go as sophomore center Shawntinice Polk pounded the Gauchos inside for 10 points during Arizona’s run. After a tense two minutes, the Gauchos rattled off six straight points to close out Arizona’s hope of a comeback.
“I thought for 28 minutes we played really good basketball,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “But in the second half, we allowed Arizona to get back into the game. I thought we played pretty well defensively except for that stretch of five to six minutes where they just gave the ball to Polk anytime they wanted to.”
Fisher finished with 15 points coming off the bench for the Gauchos and Willett added 10 points and five rebounds. Junior forward Kristen Mann scored nine points and had nine rebounds as the Gauchos shot 53.1 percent from the field.
The records keep coming for Taylor, as she now owns the record for most blocked shots in a career at UCSB with 181. Taylor earned her first start of the season, hobbled by an ankle injury through the first three games.
“They did a good job going inside to Lindsay and outside and hitting some jumpers,” Bonvicini said. “Lindsay’s like Kareem and ‘Polky’ is like Shaq. Lindsay’s really improved; she can go either hand and obviously she has a great size advantage.”
Polk finished with 20 points and posted a game-high 11 rebounds and forward Natalie Jones finished with 13 points for Arizona. After winning the first 19 games against Santa Barbara in her career, Bonvicini has now lost the last two. Tuesday night’s loss was her first loss at the Thunderdome.
“It’ll be a good growing experience for her,” French said jokingly.
The win against Arizona is the Gauchos’second against a ranked opponent so far this season, defeating the then #19 Utah a week ago in the Thunderdome. The road doesn’t get any easier for UCSB, as the Gauchos host Illinois Friday at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.