The UCSB women’s basketball team ushered in the second half of the conference season by winning its 10th-straight game last night against Fullerton.
In a match-up of the two hottest teams in the Big West, the Gauchos (14-6 overall, 9-0 in the Big West) remained undefeated in conference play as they beat the Titans (7-14, 5-4 Big West) 72-63. The Gauchos were led by junior guard Sha’Rae Gibbons, who scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and also got a solid performance from sophomore forward Jordan Franey, who scored 13 points and added eight rebounds, but held the Big West’s leading scorer, junior forward Toni Thomas, to just 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
“I just came out knowing that effort on defense was going to be key in this game,” Franey said. “I was so concerned about keeping them off the boards, I knew that would be key in this game.”
Fullerton got off to a hot start thanks in large part to its three-point shooting. With the game tied at four early, back-to-back threes put the home team ahead by six, then Titan freshman guard Lauren Chow extended the advantage to nine with her second basket from beyond the arc, 13-4. Freshman forward Ashlee Brown stopped the 9-0 run and brought the score to 13-6 with 14:35 remaining in the half. Junior center Kat Suderman kept the Gauchos within striking distance, scoring six straight points for the visitors to keep the game within reach at 21-14. Despite the slow start, the Gauchos stepped up their defensive intensity and scorched the Titans with a 12-1 run with the first half winding down, taking a 33-24 lead. For the half, UCSB had a resounding edge on the boards, out-rebounding Fullerton 25-11, taking a 33-27 advantage into the locker room.
“It’s good to see that we were able to [get that kind of rebounding effort],” Head Coach Mark French said. “We need to be doing that every game.”
The Gauchos built on their momentum in the second half, holding a double-digit lead for the majority of the period. Fullerton made things interesting late in the game, getting as close as five with 17.1 seconds to go. Santa Barbara’s clutch free throw shooting silenced any hopes the home team had of a comeback, shooting 90 percent from the line for the game and earning the 72-63 win. The win was due in no small part to the effort on the glass, as the final rebounding tally was 24-50 in favor of UCSB, and 24 of Santa Barbara’s 50 boards were on the offensive end.
“We got what we needed tonight,” French said. “I was disappointed with the effort toward the end, though we really need to get that killer instinct as we go on the rest of the season.”