The UCSB women’s basketball team may just start getting superstitious now that winning its 13th-straight Big West title is within its grasp.
With their 70-64 win last night over Cal State Fullerton, the Gauchos (15-11 overall, 8-3 in the Big West) put themselves in position to tie UC Riverside for the league championship. All they needed was for the Highlanders (17-10, 11-2 Big West) to lose in San Luis Obispo. After beating Santa Barbara last weekend, the red-hot Cal Poly (12-12, 7-4 Big West) squad did UCSB a favor and extended its win streak to seven last night. The loss for the powerful Riverside squad means that if the Gauchos win the matchup between the two this Saturday, they will be able to snag their lucky 13th title.
“This is what coaches coach for and what players play for,” UCSB Head Coach Mark French said. “It should be a very exciting game.”
Santa Barbara came out to a slow start in last night’s game, shooting a solid 41.7 percent through the first nine minutes, but giving up six turnovers in that span that allowed the Titans (13-14, 7-6 Big West) to stretch out a 16-11 lead.
“One of the bad things about turnovers is that they give them an easy chance to get back and score,” French said. “Once we stopped turning the ball over, we actually got to get back and play defense.”
At the halfway mark in the first, the Gauchos began to settle down and play their brand of basketball, and it paid off on the scoreboard. In the last 10 minutes of the half, Santa Barbara gave up only two turnovers and notched seven assists and four steals, all while shooting 47.1 percent. UCSB took a 35-24 lead into the half and never looked back.
With junior center Jenna Green leading all scorers with 24 points, UCSB stormed out of the locker room and grabbed their largest lead of the game at 13. Despite repeated attempts by a suddenly aggressive Fullerton team to get back in the game, UCSB never game up the lead throughout the second period. The Titans managed to close the lead to five with a minute left, but a pair of clutch free throws from junior guard Jessica Wilson gave the Gauchos a large enough margin that Fullerton couldn’t foul its way back into the game. Wilson was the only other Gaucho in double digits, with 16 points on the night along with nine rebounds and nine assists, both game highs.
“We’ve had a little trouble [closing games out] this year, especially at home,” French said. “It’s certainly a confidence booster for the team to be able to hold on tonight.”