The UC Irvine women’s basketball team proved once and for all that size truly doesn’t matter in its 82-69 upset over Santa Barbara Thursday night in the Thunderdome.
The Anteaters’ 5’10” sophomore forward Stephanie Duda dominated the low post for the Anteaters (8-16 overall, 6-6 in the Big West) with career highs in points and rebounds with 19 and 15. Joining her with another double-double was 6’0″ freshman forward Kelly Cochran whose 16 points and 10 boards helped Irvine extend their winning streak to four games.
“When you’re 5’10” and a post player, if you don’t work hard you’re going to have a heck of a time,” Irvine Head Coach Molly Tuter said. “[Duda] works her tail off, and a lot of the time that’s all she has going for her. She’s as strong as an ox; [she] works her tail off. I’ve yet to see anything that can scare Duda.”
Irvine out-rebounded the Gauchos (11-11, 6-3 Big West) 47-46, dished out more assists and outshot Santa Barbara from downtown, hitting 11 of 15 from three-point range, while the Gauchos connected on just one of their 15 attempts.
“It was incredible,” Duda said. “We haven’t beaten Santa Barbara in, what, six years? And at home? It was nice to let the seniors go on this one.”
Santa Barbara appeared to gain control in the first half when they ended the period up 37-35, but its defense suddenly became porous in the second half and Irvine executed the pick-and-roll to get easy layups and open three-pointers.
“We had trouble with the screen and rolls, which is our offense,” Head Coach Mark French said. “They ran our offense and they ran it better than we did which is particularly frustrating. We just didn’t defend well, period. I can’t think of anything we did well to give up 82 points.”
Sophomore guard Jessica Wilson led Santa Barbara with 19 points in the contest including 11 in just seven minutes in the first half. The Gauchos were without their leading scorer, sophomore center/forward Jenna Green who is recovering from a head injury she suffered last Saturday. Sophomore center Kat Suderman tallied 13 points in the stead of the injured Green. Senior forward Autumn Nichols provided a spark for the Gauchos off the bench, returning to the court for the first time in three games with six points and six boards in 16 minutes of play.
“We got as much of a lift from Autumn as she could give us,” senior guard Karena Bonds said. “Our team knows how much she’s hurting.”
The Gauchos hope to take some of their frustration out on Long Beach State, which currently sits in first place in the Big West standings. Tip-off is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m.
“What we do now in these last five conference games is going to have a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves,” French said.