The UCSB women’s basketball team gave fans a Halloween treat as it defeated Vanguard 94-77 in its first exhibition game.
After trailing at halftime the Gauchos put together a stellar second half in which they outscored the Lions 50-28. Santa Barbara showcased its depth in its first of two preseason games as five players posted double figures in scoring, despite missing star seniors center Jenna Green, who will sit out the next exhibition match with a back injury, and guard Jessica Wilson, who was sidelined for a violation of team rules.
“We just have so much depth that we can pretty much replace each other,” senior guard Chisa Ononiwu, who led the team with 18 points, said. “We weren’t that worried about [missing Green] at all.”
UCSB held the advantage in the early going, as a three-point shot by junior guard Sha’Rae Gibbons put the Gauchos out front 10-5 within the games first five minutes. Santa Barbara managed to stay ahead of Vanguard until the 11:04 mark, when senior guard Jessica Richter hit a three that put Vanguard ahead 21-18. UCSB became the victim of a 7-0 run that put the Gauchos down 12 points with just over two minutes remaining in the half. With just 10 seconds remaining before the teams headed to the locker room, Gibbons made a spectacular hustle play that resulted in a steal and a foul, and her two free throws sent Santa Barbara into halftime trailing 43-49.
“I thought we would get off to a much better start in the first half,” Head Coach Mark French said. “[Vanguard] is a great program, but they’re an NAIA [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] team and I thought we would be more dominant right away.”
The Gauchos’ offense appeared to be much sharper in the second half, and UCSB regained the lead at the 13:50 mark as sophomore forward Jordan Franey scored off a steal by Gibbons, putting the home team ahead 57-56. An 8-2 run that included three-point field goals from Franey and junior guard Lauren Pederson widened Santa Barbara’s lead, making the score 72-63 with 9:51 to play. UCSB never relinquished the lead as it dominated the second half, and back-to-back fast break layups by Ononiwu in the game’s final two minutes gave the Gauchos a 17-point victory.
With two of its star players missing, Santa Barbara got exactly what it needed in the exhibition contests – great performances from its role players. Pederson, a transfer from UCLA, had a strong all-around game in her first contest as a Gaucho, tallying 10 points, nine assists and four steals. Also stepping up for UCSB was Franey, who had 14 points and a team-leading eight rebounds. As a team, the Gauchos out-shot Vanguard 78.6 percent to 30.8 percent in the second half.
“One of the great things about this year is that it is going to be really competitive for playing time across the board, and that is going to be really good for us,” French said.
This Saturday at the Thunderdome, Santa Barbara will play its second exhibition game against Westmont at 2 p.m., then will open up the regular season Friday, Nov. 9 at home against BYU.