After a tough loss last Saturday to UC Riverside that shattered any hope of winning another Big West conference championship, the UCSB women’s basketball team will be getting ready for the Big West tournament in their last two games of the regular season this week.
With the 62-54 loss to the Highlanders, the Gauchos (15-12 overall, 8-4 in the Big West) were relegated to a second place finish in the Big West. After a six-game winning streak from Cal Poly and a Cal State Northridge team that has won eight of the last 12, UCSB is now stuck firmly in a three-way tie for the second seed in the tournament. Santa Barbara will get a chance to knock off the Matadors (12-14, 8-4 Big West) on Saturday in the Matadome, and even up the series after the Gauchos lost a 66-64 heartbreaker at home earlier in the year. Cal Poly (13-12, 8-4 Big West) also plays Northridge tonight, so the Big West outcome is certainly still up in the air.
First, UCSB has to take down Big West whipping boy Pacific (8-19, 2-10 Big West). The Gauchos de-clawed the Tigers in their last meeting with an 89-55 dismantling on Jan. 27. The reason the Tigers have only won 16 percent of their games is simple: Their opponents have outperformed them in just about every statistical category. The Tigers are shooting 34.5 percent on the season compared to their opponents’ 41.4 percent, and have a scoring deficit of 8.5 points per game.
The Gauchos have lost three of their last eight conference games, and their losses have all been to the three other top teams in the Big West: UCR (18-10, 12-2 Big West), Northridge and Cal Poly. A big issue contributing to their losses has been a lack of a balanced offense. In their two games before playing UCR, junior center Jenna Green and junior guard Jessica Wilson were the only Gauchos to score in double digits, and in the Riverside loss, sophomore guard LaShay Fears was the only player to score more than 10. Despite this, Green, Wilson and junior guard Chisa Ononiwu all are averaging double digits on the year, and Fears and freshman forward Jordan Franey are close with almost nine points per game each.
Interestingly enough, the Gauchos are 10-2 when they have four scorers in double digits, and just 5-10 when they don’t. While it seems obvious that having more players scoring more points leads to more wins, the fact is Santa Barbara plays better basketball at both ends of the court when they are able to spread the ball around and get the whole team working.
With just two games left before the Big West Tournament, the Gauchos have one final chance to get the team tuned up and ready for the postseason. The end of the season run begins tonight at 7 in Stockton, Calif.