With two of their three injured starters likely to return, UCSB’s women’s basketball team looks poised to take on Cal Poly on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos (8-7 overall, 3-1 in the Big West) are coming off of almost a full week of rest and practice after a convincing 70-55 victory over Davis. During that break, usual starters sophomore guard Jessica Wilson and senior forward Autumn Nichols were able to recover from their injuries and are expected to play Saturday.
“A lot of it is about emotion and expectation,” Head Coach Mark French said. “If our team thinks, ‘oh good Jessica and [Nichols] are back, phew we can relax,’ that can be real trouble.”
Senior guard Karena Bonds has been nursing an ankle injury and is questionable for Saturday’s contest.
“Certainly I’m hopeful that we’ll get her back,” French said. “She’s been progressing through that, you know, don’t do anything, and then jog in a straight line, but she hasn’t had any contact stuff yet.”
The Mustangs (8-6 overall, 3-1 Big West) enter the Thunderdome bringing with them a lot of energy. The Big West’s most prolific offensive team, averaging 74.2 points per game, will likely bring the heat on both sides of the ball.
“I know they’re going to put a lot of full court pressure on us and double teams,” French said. “They kind of play crazy kamikaze defense with lots of traps. I think it will be fun.”
Cal Poly has dropped their last two games, including a 73-59 loss to Davis at home on Jan. 13. Their potent offense is led by junior guard Jessica Eggleston’s 13.3 points per game. They currently sit at second place -tied with UCSB – in the Big West standings.
“Their league record is probably the best it’s been at this stage in the season, and they’ve had some good wins this year,” French said. “I’m excited about getting a chance to compete with them.”
Santa Barbara is led by sophomore forward/center Jenna Green with 14.7 points per game. Green was limited to just five points against Davis, but contributed defensively with a blocked shot and a dominating presence. Both times the two teams faced each other last season Santa Barbara came away with 24 point victories, the Gauchos have won the past eight against their central-coast rival and are 40-12 in the overall series.
The contest should be a good one for Gaucho fans due to the longstanding rivalry between Cal Poly and Santa Barbara in every sport. Unfortunately for the Mustangs the rivalry has been pretty one-sided in the recent past.
“I wouldn’t put it in the same category as say, Long Beach,” French said. “They need to beat us a couple of times to make it more of a rivalry. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way it’s just a matter of fact.”
After recording her second start of the season against Davis, freshman guard Whitney Warren will miss Saturday’s game while she recovers from a medical procedure performed Thursday.