It is funny how much easier it is for a team to win when all its shots are dropping.
After losing to Cal State Northridge 66-64 earlier this week, the UCSB women’s basketball team faced practically the exact same game plan in Saturday’s 89-55 dismantling of Pacific. The Tigers (7-14 overall, 1-6 in the Big West) must have been looking at film from their loss to the Matadors 9-11 overall, 5-2 Big West), because their defensive schemes were a mirror of the Matadors’. The only difference between the two games was in the hands of the Gaucho (11-9 overall, 5-2 Big West) shooters – in Thursday’s game they shot a dismal 34.3 percent from the floor and 29.2 percent from beyond the arc. In Saturday’s game, however, the shots were dropping in and Santa Barbara shot an incredible 77.8 percent from three-point range and 58.5 percent from the floor.
“[Pacific] must have seen footage from Thursday’s game,” Head Coach Mark French said. “They played the exact same zone as Northridge, and we blew them out of the water.”
The Gauchos had three players score in double digits on the night, led by junior guard Chisa Ononiwu who had an incredible night with 29 points including six-of-eight shooting from downtown. Also racking up the points were guards junior Jessica Wilson with 17 and sophomore Whitney Warren with 14. Notably missing from the over-10 club was junior center and Gaucho leading scorer Jenna Green. The Tigers’ zone was incredibly good in the first half at shutting down the inside, with constant double- and triple-teams on Green and only six first-half Gaucho points inside the paint. UCSB was not very concerned by the inability to get the ball down low, and their perimeter ball movement and shooting was excellent.
“We played more together as a team [than against Northridge], and obviously when the ball is going in the basket it’s easier to get things rolling,” Assistant Coach April McDivitt said.
The Tigers opened the game up with a three, but just two possessions and one minute later the Gauchos took the lead and never gave it back. After Pacific’s trey, Santa Barbara went on an 11-2 run that lasted five minutes into the half. The Gaucho lead stabilized around 10 points for the rest of the half, despite the fact that any attempts at scoring in the paint were stopped by the Tigers. The Gauchos’ frustration over having the lane blocked came to a head with 3:27 left in the half, when Green was called for a questionable offensive foul. The Santa Barbara bench was in an uproar, and French ran onto the court to protest, which netted an automatic technical foul.
“Jenna is such a hardworking player and she showed that tonight,” French said. “I stepped out onto the court so I was guaranteed the technical but I wanted Jenna to know I had her back.”
The Gauchos came out in the second half the same way they had left the first, and in the first two minutes they went on a 7-0 run. UCSB managed to open up the Tiger defense in the second, and tore up the lane en route to 22 points in the paint. Santa Barbara ran a full-court press for most of the game, and it really became effective in the second half, shutting down all attempts at a Pacific comeback. The Gauchos began to run away with it midway through the half, and their largest lead of the game was a 37-point margin with one minute left.
The Gauchos continue their homestand with a game against #9 Stanford (18-3) this Thursday at 7 p.m.