Stanford taught the Gauchos a lesson last night in the Maples Pavilion: Stick to the Big West.
The 14th-ranked Cardinal (17-5 overall, 11-2 in the Pac-10) handed 10-time defending Big West champion Santa Barbara (11-9, 6-2 Big West) its worst defeat of the season 81-47.
Head Coach Mark French wasn’t able to stick around and watch his team get outscored by 34 points; he was ejected from the game with 17:22 remaining in the contest after screaming at official Clarke Stevens, after the latter failed to blow the whistle on what French felt was a hard foul to sophomore guard Jessica Wilson. In his 27 years of coaching, this was his first ejection.
“I think it was a lack of discipline on my part, I apologize to the team,” French said. “I would never tolerate that level of lack of cool by my players, and I apologized to them and told them I’ll try not to do that again.”
Sophomore forward/center Jenna Green was mired in foul trouble early on, picking up her first foul just 14 seconds into the game. Sophomore center Kat Suderman filled the void left by Green by pouring in a team-high 15 points, but it was nowhere near enough to stop the offensive display the Cardinal put on.
“We knew we didn’t have much margin for error in the low post,” French said. “Rebounding is really the big issue. It’s getting awful late in the year to have something that fundamental to our program be such an issue for us.”
Stanford crashed the boards relentlessly, earning 23 offensive rebounds compared to a meager eight by the Gauchos. Freshman forward Jillian Harmon led all scorers with 17 points and pulled down 11 boards. Three teammates joined Harmon in double figures, All-American sophomore guard Candice Wiggins and junior forward [[ok]] Eziamaka Okafor notched 14 each while junior center Brooke Smith added 10.
With Green in foul trouble, senior forward Autumn Nichols recovering from a car hitting her and freshman forward Shantel Smith Thomas out as well, the Gauchos turned to their perimeter game. Santa Barbara jacked up 21 three-point field goals, making only four of them.
“We can’t rely on our three-point shooting,” French said. “We need to have good balance inside and out.”
With 6:28 remaining in the first half, the Gauchos looked poised to make it interesting when they came within eight points at 21-13, but Stanford opened it up on a 17-8 run to end the half with a 38-21 advantage. From the start of the second half, it was all Cardinal, all the time and Santa Barbara never came close
The loss ends a three-game winning streak that Santa Barbara built on the road, but continues a six-game road losing streak to non-conference opponents.
The Gauchos will finish their five-game road trip and their non-conference schedule against future Big West member UC Davis on Saturday at 2 p.m. Santa Barbara looks to rebound from their biggest loss of the season and hope to recreate the 70-55 hurt they put on the Aggies (14-9) on Jan. 15 in the Thunderdome.