For the first time since 1993, the UCSB women’s basketball team lost its first two games of the year.
Santa Barbara (0-2 overall) fell behind two tough opponents in #10 Michigan State and Louisville and could not play catch up, losing 86-55 to Michigan (2-0 overall) and 76-56 to Louisville (1-0 overall).
“They were two very, very good teams,” Head Coach Mark French said. “We had a lot of our weaknesses exposed.”
Santa Barbara dropped its first season-opener in 11 years on Friday when they traveled to Michigan State to face last year’s national runners-up. The Spartans started off hot with a 27-4 run and their zone defense held the Gauchos to just 55 points on 33.3 percent shooting.
“I thought we got reasonably good shots, they just didn’t go down,” French said. “If you look at the shot chart, we mostly had inside shots with [sophomore center] Jenna Green taking most of those, or outside threes. We didn’t really have a mid-range game and that’s a concern for us.”
Green led the Gauchos on Friday against Michigan State, pulling down seven boards and making 17 points while making seven of her 11 shots.
“I think that she’s going to be one of the premiere post players on the West Coast this year,” French said. “She’s already starting to attract a lot of double teams.”
The Gauchos got off to a better start in Louisville with an early 4-2 lead, but the Cardinals never trailed after that point. A jumper from senior forward Autumn Nichols brought UCSB within three with 12:26 remaining in the first half, but Louisville went on a 10-0 run from which the Gauchos could never recover.
“A lot of these teams are the kind of teams that get a lot of fast break points, and we had trouble with that,” French said. “Partly it’s a transition defense thing and partly it’s a tempo thing. If we take a shot with 23 seconds still on the shot clock, that’s not the way to end a run and stop their momentum.”
Green again led the team in rebounding and scoring with 19 points and eight boards and junior guard Erin O’Bryan drained six three-pointers for a total of 18 points. However, O’Bryan and Green were the only players to reach double digits for Santa Barbara, with the next highest scorer being senior guard Karena Bonds with seven.
“[O’Bryan’s] been a great three-point shooter since high school,” French said. “If we had to pick one person to take the three-point shot it would be Erin.”
While both games saw Santa Barbara turn the ball over fewer times than its opponents – 20-24 against Louisville and 16-19 against Michigan State – the Gauchos were decisively out-rebounded both games – first in Michigan 44-32 and then in Louisville 49-28.
“[Rebounding] is a major concern for us,” French said. “It’s probably harder to correct than transition defense. I’m not exactly sure why that was such a problem for us.”
The Gauchos will be happy to head home and see a friendly crowd for a change when they host Richmond (1-1 overall) on Nov. 23 at the Thunderdome.