The UCSB women’s basketball team hopes to continue its streak of ten consecutive conference tournament championships when it takes its well-rested legs down to Anaheim for the Big West Conference Tournament.
After receiving a bye for the first two rounds of the tournament because of their #1 seeding, the Gauchos (15-12 overall, 10-4 in the Big West) will face Northridge (10-19, 5-9 Big West) Friday at noon in the Anaheim Convention Center Arena.
“We need to play as well as we can in these next two games,” Head Coach Mark French said. “It should be an advantage to play a team that will be playing three games in three days.”
Seventh-seeded Cal State Northridge will face the top-seeded Gauchos in the semifinal round of the tournament. The Matadors beat out #6 UC Irvine and #3 Cal State Fullerton in close games, winning 66-64 and 74-70, respectively. However, the Matadors were recently handed a convincing loss at the hands of the Gauchos in their final regular season game March 4, 85-63 in the Thunderdome.
“We just got through playing them,” French said. “So, their personnel and how they play is still fresh in our minds.”
Sophomore center/forward Jenna Green leads Santa Barbara in points with 14.5 per game, followed by sophomore guard Jessica Wilson with 10 per game. Both Wilson and Green scored in double digits against Cal State Northridge last time along with sophomore guard Ana Onaindia.
“A lot of our players have been playing with a lot of confidence and doing very well,” French said. “It’s hard to say which one of them will get hot. Hopefully all of them do.”
French is not worried about whether or not the Gauchos have the talent to win the tournament, but he is not without his concerns.
“The last time we played Northridge they out-rebounded us by one, we will certainly be very aware of the fact that we will need to do better on the boards,” French said.
Junior guard LaJoyce King helped propel the Matadors to their four-point victory over Cal State Fullerton (11-17, 7-7 Big West) on Thursday with 15 points and 13 rebounds. King added nine points and collected 11 boards in their victory over UC Irvine (9-18, 7-7 Big West). Santa Barbara will again look to stymie her after holding her to just six points and five boards in their previous matchup.
French is confident that his Gauchos can beat Cal State Northridge, but naturally, he still has his concerns.
“I think if we have any problem it will be that we might become overconfident,” French said. “I’ll probably be telling them all the stories from the last time we didn’t win the championship.”
The last time Santa Barbara did not win the Big West Championship was in a situation similar to this one. They just beat Pacific at the end of the season and faced them in the first round of the tournament, only to be sent home in defeat. The Gauchos will keep that thought in mind and hope to continue to the next round.