Cal Poly comes to the Thunderdome tonight at 7 as the UCSB women’s basketball team looks to corral the Mustangs for a second time this season.

Currently on a five-game slide, the Mustangs will have their hands full trying to upset the Gauchos, who have won seven of their last eight games, currently holding a piece of the league lead.

“They gave us a good game last time [and] they play a bigger lineup than us. They are a really competitive team,” senior forward Kate Bauman said.

Last month in San Luis Obispo, UCSB pounded the Mustangs to win an 88-64 decision inspired by senior forward Kristen Mann’s 28 point performance.

Mann currently averages 21.1 points per game (sixth in the nation) and 9.5 rebounds per game (second in the Big West Conference), and has recorded 24 career double-doubles.

“I thought we played well in Cal Poly; we got out of the gate quickly and hopped on them right away, but they had a lot of success with us in the second half with their full-court pressure,” Head Coach Mark French said. “We’ve worked quite a bit on handling their run and jump.”

Santa Barbara is back from a two-game, two-state road trip to Idaho and Utah State, during which it split games. They lost their second conference game of the season to Idaho – the only Big West team to snatch a win against the Gauchos in the past two seasons.

However, even in the loss to Idaho, the Gaucho’s defense was not a severe weakness as they recorded a season-high rebound differential with 23 more rebounds than the Vandals, off a 17-rebound game from senior forward Brandy Richardson.

“[To continue improving defensively], we need to stop getting beat on middle drivers and I think we need to trust each other more [on the defensive end, especially with] weak-side help,” Bauman said.

Cal Poly is a team without the scoring superstars that most other Big West teams possess. Only one player on the Mustang squad, senior forward Katy Paterson, averages double digits – with 11.0 points per game.

Both Mann and senior guard Mia Fisher average more points per game than Paterson (Fisher has 13.5 ppg), while junior forward Autumn Nichols has excelled in the latter games of this season with 10.3 ppg and 4.8 rebounds per game.

“I think they’re still leading the Big West in turnovers; although we [won], we had 23 turnovers against them,” French said. “They’re probably going to come out and really try and pressure us full court right from the get-go, maybe a little bit more aggressive than they did up there.”

The Cal Poly matchup is the only game for the Gauchos this week and it is the first of three straight at home.