With a Gaucho 73-40 blowout win over Pacific (5-17 overall, 2-12 in the Big West) last night and Idaho’s (15-8 overall, 10-4 Big West) second consecutive loss in season play, it seems that fortune is finally starting to smile on the UCSB women’s basketball team (14-8 overall, 11-2 Big West) in the later stages of a season that has been fraught with struggles.
Santa Barbara began the night with an 18-2 run, getting 12 points from senior forward Kristen Mann in the first eight minutes of play, and kept at the throats of the Tigers until the final buzzer blared.
“We wanted to try and throw skip-passes, reverse the ball quickly and take the ball inside to our post because we struggled with that up at Pacific [last month],” Head Coach Mark French said. “We did that with a kind of boring efficiency; I think the team got a little bit tired of how easy it was to throw skip-passes and have our post players [score].”
Like a titan of the hardwood, Mann gave an enthusiastic fan base of 1,007 what they paid to see with her 25th career double-double and a four-for-five three point performance. Mann’s execution, however, was not the only source of excitement for the night.
From senior forward Brandy Richardson, junior forward Autumn Nichols and freshman guard Brittanie Taylor-James sacrificing their bodies as they hit the deck in petition for loose balls to the incessant “air-ball” chants by the Gaucho band, the night seemed to include all the elements that make Santa Barbara women’s basketball exhilarating.
“It wasn’t just me; pretty much everyone was open on those skip-passes,” Mann said. “Its easier to get the layup than it is to get the outside shot, and when I did take my shots, luckily they went in.”
All 10 of the Gauchos that laid foot on the court last night contributed at least 10 minutes of play. Freshman guard Jessica Wilson took only 10 minutes to record eight points and six rebounds.
“It kind of carried over from practice; they were teaching us a lot about squaring up and beating them to the post,” Wilson said.
The convincing win included season-high marks in steals (17) and assists (18) for Santa Barbara.
Along with their continual abuse of the skip-pass to their post players, the Gauchos came out running more than in recent games. Although they surrendered 20 turnovers (to Pacific’s 26), the run-and-gun strategy helped to repeatedly push the Tigers back on their heels.
“We wanted to get out and run a little bit more, be more transition-oriented, get better outlets and get out and push. I thought we did a nice job,” French said. “We had a few more turnovers than we have had in the past, but I think that’s part of us getting used to putting the pedal to the metal in transition.”
The biggest dark spot on the night was the loss of Richardson, who twice went down clasping her ankle and left the court without return.
A dangerous Northridge team who rode a seven-game win streak into last night comes to the Thunderdome this Saturday at 7 p.m.