There were plenty of ups, downs, strikes and gutters on Saturday as the UCSB women’s basketball team trounced Utah State 67-59.
In uncharacteristic fashion, the Gauchos (12-8 overall, 9-2 in the Big West) came back to steal a win after trailing 38-34 at halftime to the Aggies (11-9 overall, 6-5 Big West).
“Tonight I really give all the credit to Utah State; they shot really, really well in the first half and had a nice game plan,” Head Coach Mark French said. “Even their post players were popping out to the corners tonight and draining threes.”
The win was the first time this season that Santa Barbara was able to topple a halftime deficit and come out on top and marks the final time UCSB will face Utah State in conference play, as the Aggies are leaving the Big West Conference.
The Aggies struggled to steal a win off the conference-leading Gauchos and came close thanks to an impressive 17-of-19 showing from the charity stripe.
“[Utah State] really played well; they’re getting better and better and better, and more confident as they go along,” French said. “They were running Idaho’s play with that high screen and roll, which is good coaching because we have struggled with it.”
Santa Barbara knocked down 46 percent of its shots from the field, including junior forward Autumn Nichols’ eight-of-11 performance that left her with 21 points on the night. Nichols also pulled down eight rebounds (including four offensive rebounds) and put in five of six free throw attempts.
“You shudder to think where we would have been without Autumn; she continues to be very aggressive on the offensive boards,” French said. “Not only is she getting more confident, but the team is getting a lot more confidence as they’re really starting to look to her.”
Senior forward Kristen Mann came back after a substandard performance against Idaho to put in 21 points and record nine rebounds for the Gauchos while shooting nine-for-22.
The lead shifted back and forth throughout the game, as UCSB began on a 10-4 run that included a streak of three consecutive layups by Nichols, went into the locker room in a four-point hole, and finally built some breathing room in the latter minutes of the contest.
With the win, Santa Barbara stays on pace with its Big West co-leader and conference nemesis Idaho, which took down Cal Poly on Saturday night.
“I’m sorry that [Utah State] is leaving our conference, because they’re going to be a really good basketball team; [Head Coach] Raegan [Pebley] is going to build a really good program,” French said.