It has been an up-and-down several weeks for the UCSB women’s basketball team as it saw the end of a star player’s senior season and the beginning of its longest winning streak to date.
The Gauchos (7-6 overall, 2-0 in the Big West) received bad news when senior center Jenna Green, who has been a mainstay of the program throughout her career, decided to redshirt the rest of the season after suffering from back spasms. Santa Barbara overcame the adversity, however, and has won three consecutive games and four of its last five, including the last two against struggling conference opponents Long Beach (2-11, 0-2 Big West) and Northridge (0-12, 0-2 Big West).
UCSB’s run goes back to a Dec. 17th matchup against Pepperdine (7-8) in front of the home crowd at the Thunderdome. After a back-and-forth first half, the Waves began to take control in the second, going up by as many as seven, including a 63-56 advantage with 1:40 remaining. To the delight of the home crowd, the Gauchos were able to put together a late surge thanks in large part to the efforts of senior guard Chisa Ononiwu, who was able to get a steal which led to a layup by fellow senior guard Jessica Wilson with 57 seconds left, bringing the home team to within one. Another steal by Ononiwu led to free throws by junior center Kat Suderman, and after making one of two to tie the game, Santa Barbara was able to capture the offensive rebound with 42 seconds remaining. The home team ran the clock down and with four seconds to go when Ononiwu made her biggest play of the game, drilling the winning jumper from the top of the foul line, to give the Gauchos an exciting 65-63 victory.
After taking some time off to enjoy the holidays, the Gauchos traveled to Montana to participate in the Lady Griz Holiday Classic, where they faced host team Montana (11-3) on Dec. 28th. The story of the game for UCSB was the play of sophomore guard Meagan Williams, who had a stellar game with a career-high 28 points on 12-of-16 shooting and eight rebounds. Unfortunately for Santa Barbara, she was the only Gaucho to reach double-figures in scoring and the Lady Griz rode a 57.4% shooting percentage to an 88-70 victory.
Santa Barbara looked to rebound from the loss in its second game of the Lady Griz Holiday Classic against Mississippi (7-8); the team’s final tune-up for conference action. The Gauchos controlled the first half, taking a 37-26 advantage into halftime, and their lead only grew in the second frame. Led by Suderman’s 15 points and seven rebounds, Santa Barbara cruised to a 74-66 victory.
The Gauchos rang in the New Year with the start of Big West play on Jan. 3rd with a game on the road against Long Beach. After the 49ers tied the game at 12 with 10:50 to go in the first half, Santa Barbara regained the lead and never relinquished it for the rest of the game, going up by as much as 16 in the first period. Though Long Beach was able to keep the game to within single-digits, the Gauchos were able to force 29 total turnovers and withstand multiple 49er runs to claim a 70-62 victory. Suderman, who has been filling in admirably for Green in the center position, came up big for UCSB yet again, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
Riding back-to-back victories for the first time all season, Santa Barbara looked to continue its winning ways when it faced winless Northridge in a road game on Saturday. The game was dominated by UCSB on the offensive end from the start, as the team scored eight-of-14 threes in the first half to go into the locker room ahead 38-24. The onslaught continued in the second half, as the Gauchos’ lead grew beyond 40 points; they ended the game with their biggest lead, 44 points, to take home an 88-44 win. Williams had another impressive effort, leading five Gauchos in double figures with 16 points on seven-of-10 shooting, including two-for-two on three-pointers. Saturday’s blowout win marked UCSB’s best shooting effort all season, as it shot 53.8%.