Sequels don’t often surpass the success of their predecessors.
But with six consecutive Big West titles and an unprecedented Sweet 16 appearance last season under their belts, the UCSB women’s basketball team still insists on setting higher standards.
Over the summer, several Gaucho basketball players traveled to Australia to test their skills and compete against five professional club basketball teams. Seven players traveled with the Gaucho coaching staff to hone their abilities down under. Among those who made the trip were senior center Kate Bauman, senior guard Mia Fisher, senior forward Kristen Mann, senior forward Brandy Richardson, junior guard Karena Bonds, sophomore forward Jenna Green and sophomore guard Erin O’Bryan. Despite having only two subs, the Gauchos still steamrolled the Aussies.
The Gauchos won their first four games 101-74, 91-58, 82-48 and 66-40, a combined margin of 120 points.
“We’re having a great time,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said following the Gauchos’ second victory. “The weather has been beautiful, and the people are really friendly. Sydney seems like just a spectacular city.”
However, looking to cap an undefeated trip, the Gauchos finally found a challenge when tipping off against the Townsville Fire at the Bendingo Bank Basketball Complex. This game also tested the Gauchos’ psyche and character since they could only dress six players after Bauman was reduced to street clothes with an ankle injury.
The Gauchos and Townsville shared blows from beginning to end. With the Gauchos down 59-57 with two minutes remaining, Mann hit a clutch bank shot from 12 feet away to knot up the game. Both squads failed to close each other out and they were left to duke it out in overtime.
Neither team could pull away in the first overtime, but in the second and decisive overtime period the Gauchos were finally able to put away the feisty Australian squad. With the Gauchos ahead 73-72 and time running out, the Fire raced down the court and missed a potential game-winning shot, grabbing an offensive rebound and seemingly drawing a foul. Controversy ensued as the game clock appeared to have expired as the Fire were fouled. After much confusion, the referees ruled that the clock had expired, thus giving the Gauchos victory – much to the dismay of the Australian crowd.
“Townsville was very good – very strong, and exactly the competition we needed,” assistant coach Tasha McDowell said.
Four Gauchos compiled at least 40 minutes of game time. Mann led the Gauchos with 49 minutes and 19 points. Green contributed 17 points. O’Bryan added 16 points while displaying her deadly range, going 3-5 from beyond the three-point line. Richardson led the Gaucho front line with 16 boards, including 10 on the offensive end.
“It’s tough to pick a standout player – everyone gave everything they had,” McDowell said. “But Brandy Richardson did a fantastic job tonight. She was just an animal on the boards. Brandy really gave us a spark when we needed one.”
The Gauchos finished the trip with an impressive 5-0 mark, giving them a perfect 10-0 record in international play, building on their 2000 trip to Europe, where they compiled an identical 5-0 mark.