After having the fortune of starting their season in the familiarity of home, the UCSB women’s basketball team opens up their first weekend on the road with a tough schedule.
The Gauchos (1-1 overall) have already played a pair of games in the Thunderdome, but their first road match comes against their first ranked opponent, #14 Arizona State. The Sun Devils have yet to win a game, but they’ve had quite an early season schedule with matches against North Carolina and both the United States and Chinese national teams. The teams have squared off seven times previously, with the Gauchos leading the series 5-2. Their last meeting was in the 2000 ASU Holiday Classic finals, which Santa Barbara won. However, the Sun Devils have improved a lot since then, and return 10 players from last year’s Elite 8 squad.
Expected to make her debut for the season for Santa Barbara is star center Jenna Green, who has missed the early portion of the season with a back injury. The senior led the Gauchos last year in most statistical categories en route to being named the team’s MVP. Last year she became the 21st Gaucho to score more than 1,000 points, and she now sits 17th on the school’s all-time scoring list. She is only 54 points away from passing up Kira Anthofer (1984-89) for the 16th spot. Green is a spiritual leader of the team as well, and having her back and healthy is a huge boost for the rest of the Gaucho squad.
Green will hopefully help Santa Barbara in the one area that has plagued them in the early season: shooting. UCSB lost their opener to Brigham Young University and barely hung on for a 69-63 overtime win against USC despite a very solid stat sheet. However, the Gauchos averaged only 32.6 percent shooting for the two matches, which is considerably less than Santa Barbara would like.
On the flip side, the Santa Barbara defense has been solid so far. With 41.5 rebounds and 11 steals per game, the Gauchos have been very tough to run up points on. In last week’s win against USC, UCSB held on solely by their defensive play until a late scoring run put the game into overtime. With a +8 turnover margin, the Gauchos have been able to create a lot of extra chances to make up for their lackluster shooting.