Thanksgiving might come early this year for the UCSB women’s basketball team as they look to roast the Oregon Ducks tonight.
The Gauchos (1-1 overall) will attempt to tip their .500 record with a win in the match, which is Oregon’s first season game. The Ducks, who finished under .500 a year ago, have never won in the Thunderdome.
“Last time we played them was down here, and we beat them pretty badly,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “I’m sure they remember that.”
The key issue for the Gauchos this season has been rebounding. In their 87-62 loss to UCLA last Sunday, Santa Barbara was out-rebounded 57-35. In contrast, in UCSB’s 88-73 win against Portland State two days before, the Gauchos won the rebound contest 45-21.
“I think the big issue [against Oregon] will be rebounding,” French said. “We didn’t do well against a big, strong UCLA team. Oregon will come to town with their big 6’6″ center and it will be more of the same.”
French said that part of Santa Barbara’s rebounding success against Portland could be attributed to the speed of his team this year; some of the rebounds may have been less of the Gauchos boxing out and more due to Portland being far less athletic. In either case, rebounding has been a focus in recent practices, and he said that he hopes it will make a difference against the Ducks.
“We didn’t box out as well as we could have against UCLA and I think we paid for it,” French said. “I hope to see an improvement in our rebounding. It’s kind of a waste to spend all of this time practicing it and not get anything out of it.”
The Gauchos’ strength lies in their quickness, something they displayed with 16 steals against Portland. Santa Barbara’s defense has been very good at pressuring the ball and forcing opponents to work inside. UCSB will attempt to use this skill to its advantage against a tall Oregon team by controlling the tempo of the game.
“We always try to pressure the ball, and we pride ourselves on our player-to-player defense,” French said. “I think we will need to bring our speed and quickness into the game as much as possible. We want to turn it into a transition-type game, but for that to happen we need to dominate the defensive boards.”
Against a Pac-10 opponent, a win or a loss is not the only thing on the line for the Gauchos. Since both the Pac-10 and Big West are from the same regions, respect for each conference is always in contention. With so many teams dipping into the same recruiting pools, any chance UCSB has to show that it is superior to its conference rivals is an important one.
” It’s always a big game when we play a Pac-10 team because we recruit against them, and it’s good to show how competitive we are,” French said. “It’s an important game both in terms of this year’s season, and for the future’s recruiting because it gives us more credibility.”
Tip-off for tonight’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.