Currently riding a three-game winning streak, the UCSB women’s basketball team looks to maintain its momentum as it hosts Utah Valley State tonight at the Thunderdome.
After three consecutive conference wins over Fullerton (7-10 overall, 2-2 in the Big West), Long Beach (3-13, 0-2 Big West) and Irvine (4-12, 1-1 Big West), respectively, the Gauchos (7-8, 3-1 Big West) seem to be rounding into form after starting the season with a 2-5 record. At the opposite end of the spectrum, non-conference opponent Utah Valley State (10-7) enters tonight’s game with a string of four straight losses.
“Winning is almost always the best elixir for lack of confidence,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said.
Santa Barbara saw its most recent action Saturday when it hosted Irvine. The Gauchos put together a stellar offensive effort, shooting a season-high 54.4 percent from the field and lighting the Anteaters up for 86 points en route to an 86-67 victory. Sophomore guard LaShay Fears led the team in scoring on the day, finishing with 18 points on five-of-nine shooting and six assists. Fears was just one of five players in double figures for UCSB.
“We’ve been spending a lot more time breaking down the nuts and bolts of our player to player offense and that has resulted in better execution,” French said. “We’ve also shot the ball much better and have spent more time on that aspect of our game.”
While the Gauchos demonstrated their depth in the win, no player stood out more than junior guard Jessica Wilson, who stuffed the box score with 15 points on six-of-12 shooting, six rebounds, three blocks, four steals and career-high 12 assists. In the two games played in the new year, Wilson is averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and nine assists. She was rewarded for her stellar play with the first Big West Player of the Week honor of 2007.
“It’s hard to ignore someone that gets 12 assists in a game,” French said. “She’s been spectacular and that’s not just a credit to [Wilson], but to the fact that we’ve been working much more on our offense.”
Tonight UCSB will host Division-I Independent Utah Valley State in the first meeting ever between the two programs. After starting the season with a 9-1 record, Utah Valley State has dropped four straight and is 1-6 in its last seven games. Leading the Wolverines’ attack is sophomore center Robyn Fairbanks, who averages 25.3 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game. In a 69-70 loss to Big West foe Riverside (9-7, 3-1 Big West) earlier this season, Fairbanks posted 34 points on 13-24 from the field, her career-high until she posted 43 points against Montana State (6-8) the following game.
“We’re going to try to keep the ball away from [Fairbanks],” French said. “We need to make sure we get a hand up and make sure we do a good job on the rest of her teammates.”
The action gets underway at 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome.