After Saturday’s disappointing loss to UC Riverside, the UCSB women’s basketball team bounced back with a convincing 79-67 win over Pacific.
The win is the Santa Barbara’s 10th straight over the Tigers (8-19 overall, 2-10 in the Big West) – a winning streak that dates back to 2003. The Gauchos (15-12, 8-4 Big West) followed their recipe for success, as they played an excellent team game and had four players in double digits on the night.
“It was a nice team victory,” Head Coach Mark French said. “We took care of the first part of the business we needed to care, and that’s to get a win. This is how we need to play; hopefully we can keep this attitude and continue to knock down shots.”
Sophomore guard LaShay Fears led the Gauchos with 23 points and six assists. She shot the lights out, and hit 60 percent from the field and from beyond the arc. She was also solid from the charity stripe, hitting eight-of-eight free throws. When asked if she was happier about her points, free throw shooting or assists total, Fears said that she was happy to be playing well all around. Playing well early has been a problem as of late for Santa Barbara, and Fears said that she just wants to be playing that aggressively at all times.
“[Tonight] was a great win, I just wish that we would have come off from the start pressuring,” Fears said. “I wish we didn’t have to wait until the second half to step it up. Its Big West [Tournament] time, so we have to pick it up.”
Fears was followed by junior guard Jessica Wilson, who had a double-double with 20 points and 10 boards, along with three assists and a pair of steals. Wilson always plays fast-paced basketball, and last night she certainly played the way she likes to. Her presence in the transition game was large as usual.
“My favorite part of the game is the transition in the open court,” Wilson said. “Steal the ball, then [I’m] gone.”
The biggest difference between this game and the recent play of the Gauchos was in the style of play; Santa Barbara was able to get into the quick rhythm that it has been confident with all year. Wilson credited the better play to the re-energized mindset of the team, something that begins in practice.
“We were a lot more aggressive [tonight], each individual came out and played their own game,” Wilson said. “The coaches told us to not hesitate in practice, and that we just need to take our open looks. We played a team game today, so that’s what helped us.”
Juniors center Jenna Green and guard Chisa Ononiwu were the other Gauchos in double digits on the night. Green, Santa Barbara’s leading scorer, threw down 16 points along with six rebounds and a stellar five blocks, while Ononiwu pitched in 10. UCSB shot excellently on the night, pouring in 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc, as well as dropping in 17 of its 19 free throw attempts.
“We shot the ball well tonight. Fears played solid the entire game and got nice balanced scoring,” French said. “Jessica Wilson seems to shoot well in Northern California, I’m not sure if its because its where she is from or because we were playing Pacific, but Jessica put on a show a couple times.”
With the win, and a win as well for Cal State Northridge over Cal Poly, the Gauchos will battle for second place this Saturday against the Matadors. With second place comes a very welcome first round bye in the Big West Tournament.
“We’ve got guaranteed two more games, so we have to battle each game,” Fears said. We gotta get after it; we gotta start fighting.”