With the end of the season and the approach of the Big West Tournament, all eyes will be on the seniors tonight when the UCSB women’s basketball team plays host to Pacific in the Thunderdome.
With a guaranteed bye to the semifinals only one win away for the Gauchos (13-12 overall, 8-4 in the Big West), they are not content to settle for second place. The Gauchos look to beat Pacific (6-19, 3-9 Big West) tonight and Northridge (8-17, 5-7 Big West) on Saturday to keep their streak of 10 consecutive Big West Conference Championships alive.
“These are important games for us,” Head Coach Mark French said. “Both in preparing for the Big West Tournament and specifically in terms of the legacy of this team not being the team to break that streak.”
The Tigers are led by senior forward Carolina Ruiz, who averages 13.1 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Defending Ruiz will fall on the shoulders of the Gaucho post players like sophomore center/forward Jenna Green and senior forward Autumn Nichols.
“We’ve got to play great transition defense,” French said. “And then in half-court, we really need to clamp down on their post players.”
Senior guard Karena Bonds led the Gauchos to victory against Pacific in a thrilling 64-62 contest in January with 18 points. Bonds and Nichols will be looking to give everything they have against the Tigers in order to keep their conference championship streak alive.
“I’ll probably go out there and work as hard as I’ve ever worked,” Nichols said. “I feel I’ve got to keep up those consecutive championships.”
The Gauchos currently sit second in the Big West Conference standings behind Long Beach. If they win their remaining two games, then the worst they can do is be named co-champions, but those wins, coupled with a loss by Long Beach (17-9, 9-4 Big West), would mean outright ownership of the conference title.
First tip is scheduled for 7 tonight in the Thunderdome.