This weekend, the UCSB women’s basketball team will get a chance start winter off early, as it begins a two-city swing through the East Coast to take on the likes of #1 Maryland in attempt to break its current four-game losing streak.

The Gauchos (1-4 overall) leave early Friday morning for their longest road trip of the season. Their East Coast tour begins against the Terrapins (7-0) Saturday night, and continues with a contest against Richmond (2-4) on Monday. The Gauchos have little experience against the two teams, having only played the Spiders three times previously and the Terrapins only once. Saturday’s game marks the first time since December of 1995 that UCSB has had to face the top-ranked team during the regular season.

Saturday’s game against the defending National Champions is going to be a test for the young Gaucho team. Maryland is coming into the game outscoring opponents by 27.1 points per game and shooting 52.7 percent. While the quality of many of their opponents has been in question – the Terrapins’ closest game was an 80-76 victory over Middle Tennessee State- there is no doubt that they play solid basketball. UCSB’s defense has been excellent, holding opposing offenses to just a 35.6 shooting percentage and out-rebounding opponents by 16.1 rebounds per game. The Terrapins’ control of the boards will be a big issue for the Gauchos, with Santa Barbara’s rebounding still in question.

“Rebounding is still one of our big issues. Maryland is big and strong, and being plus-16 in rebounding is an amazing statistic,” Head Coach Mark French said. “I think we’ve made some progress, but Maryland will make any of our problems very visible.”

Santa Barbara will next travel to Virginia to face the Richmond Spiders, who are currently on the road and will have two more away games before heading back for Monday’s game. Richmond has been out-scored and out-shot by its opponents, down six points in the scoring differential and shooting just 35.8 percent, compared to 42.8 percent for its opponents. French’s worry is that after the big game on Saturday, the Gauchos won’t give the Spiders enough respect.

“I would be worried that no matter what happens against Maryland, we take Richmond too lightly,” French said. “The environment at the two games will be a lot different, but our internal environment needs to be the same.”

Aside from the two games, French said that it will be good for the team to enjoy the East Coast, especially with a day off in between games.

“They are excited because it’s the East Coast and we’ll get to see the sights,” French said. “Having an excuse to take a study break and rest is nice.”

With two very different opponents, the weekend will be a chance for the young Santa Barbara team to gain valuable experience while trying to snap its four-game losing streak.

“We have improved really well all-around. We need to get our own energy and our own intensity back up where it needs to be,” French said. “After coaching for many, many years, I know that streaks have to do not only with how you are playing, but also with the teams you are playing against. The challenge for us is to not get down, not get depressed and realize that we’ve been very competitive against some very good teams.”