Like Superman has his Kryptonite, the Gauchos (11-7 overall, 8-2 in the Big West) have Idaho (13-6, 8-2 Big West).
In its first season sweep at the hands of a Big West opponent in more than 10 years, Santa Barbara fell to Idaho 52-56 in Moscow for the second time this season after a poor 28.6 percent shooting performance on the night.
“There can be nights when the skill things just don’t work out real well for you,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “That happened tonight and I still think we had a chance to be very [competitive late in the game].”
Although the game featured the league’s two leading scorers in UCSB senior forward Kristen Mann (21.4 points per game) and Idaho junior post-player Emily Faurholt (22.2 ppg), neither team had a statistically great night offensively.
Mann notched a below-average 13 points on six of 25 shooting, including going one for seven from beyond the arc as she played all but one minute in the game.
Mann’s counterpart, Faurholt, played every minute of the game to throw up 21 points and 10 rebounds to help Idaho squeeze out a victory in the final minutes.
“I thought we’d have a lot of energy [tonight], but Idaho came out and really took it to us in the first 15 minutes of the game,” French said.
Among the rest of the Gauchos, only junior forward Autumn Nichols managed to post double figures in scoring with an even 10 points on the night.
“A lot of credit continues to go to Idaho; they didn’t shoot real well and got out-rebounded by 23 and still wound up winning the game,” French said. “They have great character and found a way to do it.”
As the clock ticked down, the score was set at 52-50 with under a minute to play. But after sending sophomore guard and free throw wonder Leilani Mitchell to the line twice in the final minute, Santa Barbara’s fate was etched in stone.
Mitchell didn’t need to post 33 points and shoot 20 of 20 from the line as she did in the team’s last meeting to edge out the Gauchos, but instead only posted 15 points while going six for eight from the charity stripe.
“The last 25 minutes of the game we played pretty well and even had a chance to win it, even while shooting 28 percent from the floor,” French said.
The loss puts the Gauchos in a tie with the Vandals for first place in the Big West, but with the head-to-head advantage, Idaho is holding all the cards at this point in the season.