In another offensive shootout, the UCSB women’s basketball team (9-7 overall, 6-1 in the Big West) tamed Pacific (4-11 overall, 2-6 Big West) 74-61 on Saturday, shooting 50 percent on the night to return to the top of the Big West standings in a tie for first place with Long Beach State.
Head Coach Mark French led Santa Barbara to its fifth-straight triumph over his former team and the Gauchos’ fourth-straight win in Big West competition.
“I thought earlier in the year our defense carried us and we were really struggling offensively,” French said. “We’ve kind of swung full circle now and our offense [is carrying us].”
Saturday night’s game saw the return of senior guard Mia Fisher, who played with new life after sitting during Thursday’s game in Northridge, contributing 18 points off of 8-of-9 shooting from the floor.
The performance marks the ninth-straight game in which Fisher has posted double digits in scoring and re-establishes her value to UCSB’s scoring efforts.
“I’ve been working on my game; the coaches have really been helping [me with my] weaknesses,” Fisher said. “Maybe my first couple of years here you could say that was my weakness: my shooting.”
The leading scorer on the night was senior forward Kristen Mann, who followed her 32-point career-high night last Thursday to notch 28 points, 11 rebounds, and her sixth double-double of the season and 21st of her career.
Mann now sits in ninth place among all Gaucho scorers in the program’s history with 1,468 points.
“This game, in the first three or four minutes it looked like the score was going to be 110 to 108,” French said. “Now all we have to do is stabilize our defense and get back to where we were a little bit earlier in the year.”
After another first-half tug of war for the game’s lead, Santa Barbara went into halftime with a four-point advantage, 32-28, made up largely of Mann’s15 first-half points.
Midway through the second half, the Gauchos dug their heels in and muscled their way from a four-point lead to a 15-point lead in four minutes on the clock.
“Pacific always comes out ready to play, and we were already expecting that,” Fisher said. “It came as no surprise.”
Pacific sophomore guard Jessie Menkens drained three first-half attempts from beyond the arc to make it increasingly difficult for UCSB to pull away. In the second half, Menkens held to a single three-pointer and could not stop the 11-point Gaucho run that became the difference in Saturday’s game.
“In the first half, they shot the ball a lot better than I had anticipated they would,” French said. “If anything, we’ll respect them a little bit more when we see them again.”
This Thursday, the Gauchos return home to face Riverside in an attempt to capture sole possession of first place in the Big West.
“It’s always nice to be in first place, but you don’t get too used to it,” Fisher said. “We’re still hungry for it. You don’t want to take it for granted.”