Apparently those rankings count for something, because #8 Stanford – which is now enjoying a 17-game winning streak – certainly played like a top-10 team in last night’s 84-59 blowout over the UCSB women’s basketball team.
The Gauchos (11-10 overall) played solidly through the first 15 minutes, and despite never leading in the game, they reined in the Cardinal (19-3) and looked like they certainly had a chance. However, Stanford took a 13-point lead into the half and stretched it with a 22-point run to open the second.
“The first half was amazing,” freshman guard Ariana Gnekow said. “We had them; I think we could have beat them had we kept playing like that.”
UCSB started the game out with a press, and the aggressive play seemed to have Stanford flustered early. The Cardinal did not seem able to get a fluid offense going, and most of its scoring came from turnovers and transitions. The stats tell the tale, with Santa Barbara heading into the half down 40-27 and with Stanford having a 24-10 advantage on points in the paint.
Santa Barbara came into the game knowing that Stanford would be running the court quickly and pushing for fast breaks. The Gauchos are a highly quick and athletic team, and the Cardinal displayed an incredible level of fitness throughout the game.
“The number one thing today before the game was to try and not let them get the easy shots,” Assistant Coach Camille Burkes said. “Number two was to get rebounds to slow down the transition.”
Rebounding has been a main focus for the Gauchos this entire season, and has been quality as of late. However, facing a tall Stanford team, the Gauchos lost the battle of the boards at 44-25. Already at a height disadvantage, Santa Barbara got frustrated down low and was often left arguing over calls.
“A lot of the time we were arguing for over the back calls,” sophomore guard Whitney Warren said. “We weren’t getting contact and when they are three inches taller than us, it’s easy for them to win the jumping competition.”
Except for the opening six minutes of the second half, during which Stanford went on a 22-0 run, the Gaucho defense looked very aggressive and smooth during the game. Their man coverage was tight, and it was clear that Stanford was not only unable to run the offense it wanted to, but also unable of consistently making crisp passes. UCSB had nine steals on the night, and it led to 15 points off of turnovers.
“We have to play smart and play our Gaucho defense,” Burkes said. “Watching teams play, they have more trouble when they are facing defenses like ours. If we pressure all the time and keep them on their heels we can get things going.”
Despite the effort on the defensive end, it is impossible to overlook the Gauchos’ poor offensive play. In the first half, Santa Barbara shot a dismal 35.3 percent from the field and 9.1 percent from beyond the arc; they came out in the second and shot a much-improved 53.6 percent from the field. Although the shooting was poor, the Gauchos actually had four players in double digits, as opposed to Stanford’s three. However, 11 Cardinal players notched points in the game compared to UCSB’s six.
“We did have more scorers in double digits,” Burkes said, “but Stanford’s the type of team that has a roster full of scorers.”
All in all, the experience was still a good chance for learning and improvement for the youthful Gaucho team. With only one more non-conference game in its schedule, UCSB can take this as a final tune up for their run for a Big West Championship.
The Gauchos next take on Davis (9-13) tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the Thunderdome.