The UCSB women’s basketball team plays the first of its final two non-conference contests against #14 Stanford tonight at 7.

The Cardinals (16-5 overall, 11-2 in the Pac-10) currently sit on top of the Pac-10 and are among the top teams in the country. Santa Barbara (11-8 overall, 6-2 Big West) had success against Pac-10 teams earlier in the season when they defeated UCLA (13-9 overall, 8-5 Pac-10) 90-81 in an overtime game Dec. 17 and an 86-63 conquest over Arizona (7-16 overall, 3-10 Pac-10) Dec. 19. However, those two games were played in Santa Barbara; tonight’s game is a road game and against a nationally ranked opponent.

The last ranked opponent the Gauchos faced was #10 Michigan State (17-7 overall, 7-4 Big Ten) on Nov. 18 in East Lansing, Mich. Santa Barbara lost by 31 points, 86-55, and was out-rebounded 44-32.

After starting the season against strong non-conference opponents, Santa Barbara lost its first six road games, including one conference game against Long Beach. Since then, the Gauchos have been perfect away from the Thunderdome, winning their last four road games.

Despite winning five of their past six games, the Gauchos have turned the ball over an average of 23.3 times per contest with a meager assist to turnover ration of .71. If they want to have success on the road against a national opponent, Santa Barbara will need to handle the ball and dominate the boards.

Most of that responsibility will fall on sophomore forward/center Jenna Green. Green leads the team with 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Second on the team in scoring is sophomore guard Jessica Wilson with 9.9 points per game. Wilson and her athletic ability are the biggest x-factor for the Gauchos. They will need her output on both ends of the floor tonight, especially since she will likely have to guard Stanford’s All-American sophomore guard Candice Wiggins. Wiggins leads the Cardinal with 21.1 points per game and it will require strong team defense to limit her opportunities.

Stanford has historically dominated the Gauchos, winning seven of the eight contests in the series. Santa Barbara hopes to prove that it has grown since the 31-point loss to Michigan State and gain some national recognition tonight in Maples Pavilion. Following tonight’s game, the Gauchos will round out their last non-conference game against Davis (13-9 overall) on Saturday. Tonight’s game will be broadcast on 990AM.