When your current team was not even born the last time you won, it is probably time to step things up.
In a fast-paced game, the UCSB women’s basketball team narrowly missed extending its winning streak to seven with a 66-64 loss to Cal State Northridge. Santa Barbara (10-9 overall, 4-2 in the Big West) was merely seconds away from extending its all-time unbeaten stretch against the Matadors (9-10, 5-1 Big West) to 23 years.
UCSB bounced back from a terrible first half and doubled its scoring output in the second. Despite reining in the Matadors’ multiple times during in the half, the Gauchos could not hold them down and could not make an appreciable lead in the match.
The game started explosively, with both teams pushing for the fast break. Northridge ran a press early, but it could not contain the Santa Barbara perimeter. The Gauchos had excellent ball movement outside, but tried to pressure inside heavily. Their search for points in the paint was mostly unsuccessful. The shortage of baskets was due to a combination of a Matador defensive scheme that often had four players crashing the key as well as UCSB just plain missing shots. Santa Barbara only dropped five first half shots in the paint – a dismal percentage of the 32 shots taken in the first – but nonetheless half of the team’s output.
Northridge also had 10 first half points down low, and most stats compared favorably between the teams, with the Gauchos running away with a 5-1 steal margin. The biggest difference was the one that counted the most; while CSUN shot a stellar 48.1 percent in the first, UCSB threw up a miserable 25 percent.
Head Coach Mark French must have given quite a speech at halftime, because the Gauchos came out firing in the second half. They began with a press of their own that managed to effectively rein in the powerful Northridge offense. After a pair of steals by junior guard Jessica Wilson and freshman forward Jordan Franey that led to four points, junior guard Chisa Ononiwu rained a trey to even it at 36-36, just five minutes into the half.
The rest of the half consisted of Northridge stretching out a lead and the Gauchos cutting that lead back down. UCSB could never quite get back on top, and with four minutes to play, the lead seemed locked with a 55-46 margin. However, smart clock management, fouling and a lot of hot shooting brought Santa Barbara back into contention, and with 9.8 seconds left, the lead was just three with Northridge at the line. After a hit and miss, a quick pass for a layup was sent up to junior center Jenna Green, who led the team with 19 on the night. Down by two with three seconds to play, it looked like the Gauchos might have had a chance. But they were unable to foul and the two-point margin ended up being enough.
The Gauchos will try to redeem themselves against Pacific this Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Thunderdome.