The UCSB women’s basketball team returned home and were reminded just how much fun it is to beat up the little guy.
Senior center Lindsay Taylor scored a team-high 17 points and tied a career-high 16 rebounds as the Gauchos cruised to a 78-52 win over UC Riverside in the Thunderdome on Saturday night. With the win, Santa Barbara clinched its ninth straight Big West Conference regular-season title and ninth consecutive 20-win season.
“I really didn’t notice [the rebounding],” Taylor said. “I noticed how bad my shooting was. At least I got my rebound after I missed it. That’s the good part out of this.”
Santa Barbara rebounded from a 76-61 loss to USC on Thursday night to win its 11th game in 12 outings. UCSB has now won 25 straight conference home games, beginning back in the 2000-01 season.
The Gauchos started off strong with a pressing defense that forced three turnovers in the first two minutes of the game, putting UCSB ahead 6-0. Riverside Head Coach Jennifer Young was forced to call a timeout in order to regroup her team as the Gauchos capitalized on the defensive intensity USC lacked in the contest.
The timeout didn’t help, as Santa Barbara went on a 15-0 run midway through the first half and jumped to a 29-10 lead with seven minutes to go in the contest. During the first 13 minutes of the game, Riverside scored all of its baskets during a two-minute frame from 15:15 to 13:15 as Santa Barbara continued to pressure the ball.
With a 51.5 first-half shooting percentage and eight points from Taylor, the Gauchos entered halftime with a 41-22 halftime lead. Santa Barbara held Riverside to a 34.4 shooting percentage in the first half. Senior center Astrid Spegel was the lone bright spot for UCR, scoring 10 first first-half points.
The Highlanders couldn’t muster much offense in the second half, as the Gauchos held on to a comfortable lead. Santa Barbara cooled down during the final 20 minutes, shooting only 38.7 percent from the field, but responded on the defensive end, holding the Highlanders to 32.4 percent from the field.
“It’s tough when Lindsay is getting 16 boards. That’s a nice job – it’s tough to get in there and box out,” Young said. “She does a nice job in there. She has so much experience with the national team and so on, and she is tough to compete with. You can’t prepare for 6’8″ very often.”
Junior forward Kristen Mann scored 13 points and added four rebounds, and senior guard April McDivitt finished with 12 points and seven assists. Junior forward Brandy Richardson had another impressive night on the boards, finishing second on the team with eight rebounds.
The Gauchos did a good job containing junior guard Casandra Reeves, holding her to eight points on 3-of-17 shooting from the field.
“She played really well against us in our first game. She was a key point when we were scouting and preparing for Riverside,” McDivitt said. “She’s a great player and she was a focus for us tonight and we were fortunate enough to stop her.”
The Highlanders had two players scoring in double digits, led by senior forward Crystal Harris with 17 points. Spegel added 14 points and a team-high six rebounds as Riverside dropped its third straight contest to fall to seventh in the conference.
Santa Barbara pulled down 54 rebounds compared to the Highlanders’ 30. The 24-rebound difference was the widest margin all season for the Gauchos.
“I would say that would be the bright spot of the game – that and we did a really good job on Reeves,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “It’s good to crash the boards. I think a lot of those were us missing our own two-footers and putting them back in; nonetheless, I would say our rebounding was better than most games we’ve had.”
Before the game, Mann was honored by French for scoring her 1,000th point during last Thursday’s loss at USC.
French was called for a technical foul while disputing a foul called on Mann with 9:12 remaining in the game.
“I shouldn’t complain about the officiating, other than a good defensive play that called for a foul,” French said. “I thought all three of them were slow to blow the whistle all night and that’s good for us.”
Santa Barbara hosts Cal State Fullerton tonight at 7 in the Thunderdome. Despite losing to Cal Poly 89-63 on Saturday night, Riverside’s loss to UCSB helped the Titans clinch a spot in the Big West Tournament.
Fullerton has lost five of its last seven contests, including a 67-48 loss at the hands of the Gauchos on Jan. 31. Every Gaucho in uniform scored and Mann led Santa Barbara with 15 points and eight rebounds. UCSB held Fullerton to 18 first-half points and a 32.1 shooting percentage for the game.
With the win over Riverside, it seems Santa Barbara has righted the ship after the tough loss to USC.
“I thought it was great for us. Playing those teams gets us back in touch with reality,” French said. “There’s a big bad basketball world outside of the Big West, and I thought we were a little bit back on our heels and we didn’t play with much confidence. I hope it will be a valuable lesson.”
Mann agreed but thinks the Gauchos need to move on.
“We definitely have to look at that game and the mistakes we made but we can’t dwell on it,” Mann said. “We have three games left. It’s not something to lose sleep over. But we definitely came out flat and we just have to learn from that and keep moving forward.”