After its first conference loss of the season, the UCSB women’s basketball team got defensive.
Santa Barbara held Cal Poly to 27.9 percent shooting as the Gauchos defeated the Mustangs 69-45 Saturday at the Thunderdome. Senior center Lindsay Taylor and junior guard Mia Fisher each scored a team-high 15 points as UCSB won its 21st consecutive Big West conference home game. It was the first time all season that Cal Poly was held to below 50 points in a game.
UCSB Head Coach Mark French, upset with his team’s play, called a timeout after the Mustangs’ first basket. After the timeout, Cal Poly ran out to a 4-1 lead three minutes into the first half. French responded by putting Taylor and guards senior April McDivitt and sophomore Karena Bonds into the game. The Gauchos quickly rattled off seven straight points and never looked back.
The Gauchos used runs of 7-0 and 15-4 to pull to a 38-18 halftime lead. Santa Barbara shot 48.3 percent during the first half as senior forward led the way with nine first half points. The Gauchos’ unstoppable offense was complimented by an overbearing defense that held the Mustangs to 26.5 percent shooting in the first half. The Mustangs also shot 0-8 from three-point range.
“In the first half our defense was really good,” French said. “They were shooting some shots from way out there. It’s not the 40-foot [shots] we’re worried about, it’s more the 22 offensive rebounds they had.”
The only player that could get going for Cal Poly was junior guard Heidi Wittstrom who scored a first half high of 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds. No other Mustang scored more than a basket during the first half.
Cal Poly began to show some life in the second half and came within 14 points of the Gauchos when freshman guard Jessica Eggleston made the second of her two free throws with three minutes to go. But Santa Barbara finished off the game on a 9-0 run, ending the Mustangs’ hope for a comeback.
The Gauchos out-shot the Mustangs 47.1 percent to 27.9 percent for the game and out-rebounded the Mustangs 40-37. Despite the Gauchos’ convincing win, French was disappointed the Gauchos let Cal Poly back into the game in the second half.
“I thought our energy was good in the first half, but it dropped off in the second half,” French said.
Taylor led the Gauchos with seven rebounds and Fisher finished with six to accompany her game-high five assists. Junior forward Kristen Mann finished with 12 points and senior guard Lisa Willett had nine.
Santa Barbara finished with 23 turnovers and only 14 assists.
“I think a lot of the credit for the high turnovers should go to Cal Poly,” French said. “They traditionally get after you.”
Cal Poly did not fare any better, committing 27 turnovers to only nine assists.
“With our up-tempo style we expect to have a few turnovers; we’d like to keep them around 18-19 per game. We had a few key turnovers today when if we just made the simple pass, we would have been better off,” Cal Poly Head Coach Faith Mimnaugh said. “It’s an area we are really trying to improve upon.”
Wittstrom finished with a game-high 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Mustangs, who fall to 6-8 overall and 2-3 in the conference. Freshman guard Sparkle Anderson was held in check by UCSB freshman guard Erin O’Bryan, scoring only two points. However, Anderson made her presence felt on the defensive end, consistently shoving and pushing Taylor throughout the game.
“She’s very quick, she’s one of the feisty ones,” Taylor said. “But she’s only 5’2″, so she has to make herself present somehow. I don’t know if it was intentional. Little people’s syndrome I guess.”
UCSB travels to Northridge on Thursday before hosting conference-leading Pacific on Saturday. The Gauchos are now a game behind Pacific for first place.