For the UCSB women’s basketball team, revenge is sweet.
Senior center Lindsay Taylor scored a game-high 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds as the Gauchos defeated the Vandals 86-50 in front of 1,774 fans in attendance at the Thunderdome on Thursday night. Santa Barbara shot 53.8 percent from the field as they extended their win streak to six games and made Head Coach Mark French a winner in his 500th game as coach of the Gauchos.
“I’m not sure where it ranks in the top 500, but it was an outstanding effort in the first half,” French said. “Our energy levels were outstanding.”
Idaho came out strong to start the game, pressuring the Gauchos into costly turnovers as they pulled out to a 7-3 lead to start the game. Senior guard April McDivitt nailed a three-pointer four minutes into the game to pull within one point. Junior guard Mia Fisher converted on a layup to put the Gauchos ahead 8-7 less than a minute later, and UCSB never looked back. Behind a smothering defense and a newfound respect for controlling the ball, Santa Barbara turned the much-hyped rematch into a laugh.
“We awoke a sleeping giant,” Idaho Head Coach Mike Divilbiss said. “We knew Santa Barbara was going to play well. They played absolutely outstanding and they deserve all the credit. I’m so impressed with them. We knew coming what we were going to be faced with.”
McDivitt had her best game as a Gaucho and led the team with 10 first-half points and seven assists as Santa Barbara outscored the Vandals 28-7 during the final 10 minutes of the half. Idaho was held to 30 percent from the field as the Gauchos scored 49 first-half points, their highest first-half total of the season. UCSB also dominated the board in the first half, out-rebounding the undersized Vandals 27-11.
“I don’t think we shot the ball as well at our place, but I think Santa Barbara had something to do with that,” Divilbiss said. “They did a great job of pressuring every pass; they were really physical; they played a lot more physical this time. I think they stepped their game up, and I think McDivitt coming back helped them a lot. I think their kids played way more on an edge than they did at our place.”
Fisher led Santa Barbara with 11 first-half points as the Gauchos entered halftime with a 49-23 lead. UCSB shot 62.5 percent from the floor during their most impressive first-half play of the season. Santa Barbara dominated inside, scoring all but six of their buckets within 5 feet from off the rim in the first half.
“With the size that we have that’s one of our game plans,” McDivitt said. “Put it in, and when they clamp down, pass it back down to us.”
Santa Barbara was unrelenting in the second half as they continued to pound the Vandals inside. The Gauchos pulled to leads as high as 38 points in the second half as Idaho found no answer for Santa Barbara’s incredible offensive arsenal. During a three-minute stretch in the second half, freshman forward Jenna Green made the Vandals’ low-post defense look silly as she scored 10 points inside the paint en route to a career-high 19 points and nine rebounds.
The Vandals resorted to firing a bevy of three-pointers to close out the game, scoring more than half of their points from behind the arc in the second half. The nation’s leading scorer, junior post Emily Faurholt, was held to 18 points, well below her season average of 25.6 points per game.
“I think they were very physical with us and I think that was the difference between the last time we played them,” Faurholt said. “Everything we did, we had to work very hard for.”
Idaho finished the night shooting 34.5 percent from the field and shot only 42.9 percent from the charity stripe.
“I believe if we play that hard defensively, a lot of good things can happen for us,” French said. “We have a lot of talent on the offensive. I’m really proud of the difference to how we are playing defense now, and when we were up in Idaho was at least a 34-point difference.”
Five Gauchos scored in double digits as the bench outscored the Vandals 26-9. Santa Barbara also dominated on the boards, out-rebounding Idaho 46-26. McDivitt finished with 10 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in 30 minutes of action. Mann and Fisher each finished with 13 points.
More encouraging than the outcome of the game was the Gauchos’ assist-to-turnover ratio. After having more turnovers than assists in the last three games, Santa Barbara finished the night with only six turnovers compared to an amazing 26 assists.