The UCSB women’s basketball team is locked and loaded for its final road trip of the regular season.

Facing yet another team that has been victorious over the Gaucho’s (15-8 overall, 12-2 in the Big West) nemesis Idaho, Santa Barbara will take on Fullerton (5-18 overall, 3-11 Big West) tonight at 7 p.m. in Titan Gym.

“Just like us, [Northridge has] been improving throughout the season and they just beat [Idaho],” junior forward Autumn Nichols said. “We can’t underestimate them; we’ve got to respect them like we do everybody else and act like every game is the end because our conference title is up [in the air]. If we go down one game, we’ll be out of it just like that.”

On its road trip last week, Fullerton stunned the crowd with a 68-65 victory over Idaho – which remains the only conference opponent to steal a win off UCSB in the past two years of play. Earlier this season, however, Santa Barbara took it to Fullerton in a 71-47 triumph, despite allowing their sophomore forward Charlee Underwood to knock down 19 points.

The Gauchos will step onto the court against Fullerton tonight without senior rebounding specialist and forward Brandy Richardson, who sprained her ankle while playing against Pacific last Thursday in the Thunderdome.

“I’m making progress on my ankle,” Richardson said. “It’s a mild sprain with partial torn ligaments, but it’s recovering very well; I’ve been going in everyday for rehab and the swelling is now going down. I definitely will be back before the season is over although I don’t know how close to 100 percent I will be.”

The Gauchos go on the road having won 10 of their last 11 outings with an arsenal including seniors forward Kristen Mann and guard Mia Fisher, the sixth and 14th leading scorers in Santa Barbara history, respectively. Connecting from the field at a rate of 52.1 percent, Fisher has the highest shooting percentage ever by a guard wearing a Gaucho uniform.

With its success on the basketball court, team camaraderie seems to be on the rise.

“Our team chemistry has definitely gotten better because we’ve had so much stuff happen to us on and off the court. You learn from our mistakes, so we’ve learned and grown,” Nichols said. “All those losses in preseason actually have helped us; whatever it is that we mess up on, we work on it.”

Familiar with its first-place position in league play (currently holding a one game lead over Long Beach), having won nine straight league titles and eight straight Big West Championships, UCSB is under no disillusions of perfection.

Work in practice continues as coaches tailor their game plans to this week’s opponents, Fullerton and Riverside.

“[We’ve been working this week on] boxing out; Fullerton out-rebounded Idaho by 20-something offensive rebounds, so if we can stop them and make them shoot, then I think we’ll be OK,” junior guard Karena Bonds said. “Without Brandy, who gets a lot of rebounds, we really need to box out as a team.”