After finally climbing above .500 for the first time all season with a pair of convincing wins last weekend, the UCSB women’s basketball team is ready to continue their assault on the Big West with a pair of games at home. Tonight the first-place Gauchos (7-6, 2-0 Big West) take on UC Irvine (4-11, 0-1 Big West) before hosting Cal State Fullerton (2-10, 1-0 Big West) Saturday afternoon.

After a tough preseason schedule, the Gauchos have torn into their Big West competition thus far. Junior center Kat Suderman, taking over as the team’s option down low for an injured senior center Jenna Green, contributed a team-high 19 points in the 70-62 win at Long Beach State. The win was the 18th Big West opening win for Santa Barbara in the last 19 years, largely due to the fact that the team traditionally schedules a very difficult non-conference schedule.

“The theory is that our weaknesses would have been pointed out to us by now,” Head Coach Mark French said. “We have seen that we need to bring a tough mentality to every game. We need to gauge our intensity compared to how we know we can play, rather than letting the game dictate our drive to us.”

The win in Long Beach, however, could not compare to what took place last Saturday, when UCSB made a mockery of Cal State Northridge with an 88-44 routing. By doubling the Matadors’ score, the Gaucho margin of victory was larger than their previous five wins combined.

“We played pretty hard the entire game, we never let Northridge gain any momentum,” French said. “We played tough defense, hustled with the ball and crashed the boards for the whole length of the game, which is what we need to do every time.”

The Gauchos have played nine of the last eleven games on the road, and they are certainly happy to carry their momentum back home. Tonight’s match against the bottom-dwelling Anteaters will be a good chance for the Gauchos to keep progressing while in the comfort of the Thunderdome.

“I think we feel like we are moving in a positive direction,” French said. “We are still a little bit inconsistent, which I think is our biggest concern. We’re good when it’s easy to be good, but we haven’t been battling as hard on the off days. Those days happen for whatever reason, whether it’s travel or sickness or anything, and the real key for the team is going to be playing tough through those times.”