Even in cruise control, the UCSB women’s basketball team could get the job done.
The Gauchos defeated Fullerton 71-47 after a strong showing in the first half and a less energized second half.
“I was really pleased with our performance in the first half,” senior forward Kristen Mann said. “Hopefully, soon we’ll put two halves together.”
Santa Barbara grabbed a season-high 54 rebounds, with Fullerton recording just 35. Mann led the defense with 12 rebounds to couple with 16 points for her 23rd career double-double. Senior forward Brandy Richardson added nine boards.
UCSB barely outscored the Titans 26-23 in the second half and committed twice as many fouls. Turnovers plagued the Gauchos as they did at the beginning of the season, with 13 of 22 total turnovers occurring in the second half alone.
“I think it was a lot of mental errors,” Mann said. “For us to go where we want to go we need to bring that number down.”
Santa Barbara never fell behind the Titans, pulling away with an 18-2 run in the first half sparked by Mann’s third-straight basket and ending with a pair of freshman guard Jessica Wilson’s free throws with 6:52 to go in the first half.
UCSB headed into the locker room with a 45-24 lead but emerged more sluggish in the second half.
“I think we got complacent and slowed down,” Head Coach Mark French said. “We need to be able to self-motivate us to do well.”
French recognized sophomore guard Erin O’Bryan as a definitive leader on the court.
“I could hear her out there trying to get our energy up,” he said. “It was a great effort for our off-guards.”
At forward, senior Kate Bauman came off the bench to record 15 points for the Gauchos.
“When Kate is healthy and plays good defense, she does great things for us,” French said. “She runs the court well and defends well. When she touches the ball good things happen.”
Bauman had four rebounds and sunk five of six from the free throw line.
“When she doesn’t put the ball in the basket, she goes to the line,” Mann said. “We have a lot of trust in her – she showed us why tonight.”
Although she had just four points in nine minutes of play, Wilson brought a high level of energy to the Gauchos. O’Bryan described her athleticism as “untamed.”
“In games you definitely don’t want to put the harness on her,” O’Bryan said.
After over a minute without scoring from either team, Fullerton guard Charlee Underwood sent Mann to the free throw line with 4:14 left in the game. Mann sunk the first of two foul shots but missed the second. Wilson tipped the missed shot in to bring the score to 69-42 and drew a foul from Titan forward Amber Pruitt.
“We’re starting to see our athleticism taking over again,” French said.
With the win, the Gauchos have extended their winning streak to six. Santa Barbara’s defense limited Fullerton to a 26.6-percent field goal percentage, the lowest by a UCSB opponent this season.
Underwood was the only Titan to score in double digits, recording 19 points. Pruitt, the Titan’s big threat, was held to two boards and just eight points.