Between being forced off the floor by an elbow-shot to the face and sitting out the final minutes of an 88-64 thrashing of league rival Cal Poly (7-5 overall, 2-3 Big West), senior forward Kristen Mann needed only 27 minutes to drop 28 points and 10 rebounds, recording her fifth double-double in a row.
“Playing behind Kristen Mann in the low post is an invitation for disaster,” Head Coach Mark French said. “She’s a great player and we’ve known that all the way along. We’ve played four games in seven days on seemingly different continents.”
Unlike the past two losses, UCSB (6-7, 4-1 Big West) received ample support from a variety of scorers last night, with four players in double-digits. Junior forward Autumn Nichols knocked down a career-high 12 points, senior forward Brandy Richardson had 10 and senior guard Mia Fisher did not disappoint with 12 points. Junior guard Karena Bonds barely missed the double-digit bus, contributing nine points to the board.
“The thing I was pleased about tonight is that we had other people step up [besides Mann],” French said. “Karena gave us great energy, Autumn gave us great energy, Brandy took the ball to the basket strong a couple times and that’s really what we need.”
Against Cal Poly, the entire Gaucho team attacked the basket with tenacity, opening things up for Mann.
“In order for our team to play five on five, I need to start scoring, so I feel good about myself because I [was able to do that tonight] and we got a win out of it,” Nichols said.
Slow starts have been a problem lately in Gaucho games; however, riding the wake of Mann’s 19 points from the floor in the first half, UCSB jumped on top of Cal Poly and never looked back.
Although Cal Poly never gave up, Santa Barbara’s continued exertion throughout the game – which included the hustle of speedsters Bonds and Fisher – helped keep the Mustangs under control.
“I thought the kids’ energy was really good; we came right out and played really well right off the bat, which has been a little bit of a problem for us,” French said.
The one dim spot for the Gauchos in an otherwise spotless performance was the fact that they surrendered 21 offensive rebounds to the Mustangs, but rebounds do not win games unless you have big-time scorers to put the ball in the basket.
After the game, the main concern for the Gauchos was the shiner Mann received and freshman guard Sha’Rae Gibbons’ injury.
“Kristen Mann, I think, is going to be fine. She got rapped in the jaw in kind of a knockout punch – she may not chew her pizza very well tonight after the game,” French said. “I’m not sure about Sha’Rae; hopefully it’s not a nose or teeth. But if anyone [will be OK], Sha’Rae will be – she’s very tough.”