It’s been three months now, and the UCSB women’s basketball team still can’t be touched. With their win streak now hitting 14 games, the Gauchos have eliminated every Big West competitor and are now making their case for being one of the best UCSB teams ever, with a 12-0 mark in the Big West.
Last night, the Gauchos (18-6, 12-0 in the Big West) ran over Pacific 62-51. Santa Barbara took it from wire to wire, only giving up the lead once in an early second-half push. After junior center Kat Suderman won the tip-off, senior guard Jessica Wilson ran off the first four points of the game to put UCSB ahead for the next 30 minutes. With the winning push, the Gauchos have locked their position in the post-season, and now they are tuning their game for playoff victories.
“Winning is a good thing,” Head Coach Mark French said. “The only Big West games that matter are those in Anaheim.”
French was referring to the annual Big West Championship, and by winning that tournament, Santa Barbara would lock up a bid to the NCAA tourney, something the illustrious program has not done in three years. With last night’s push over the Tigers, UCSB is making a strong case for making moves in the postseason. Last night, the Gaucho guards got a chance to open up their shooting range, something they haven’t been able to do as much with the penetration they’ve had this season. Wilson gives the credit to the Gaucho inside players forcing coverage.
“I would attribute [the outside scoring] to our big men doing well,” Wilson said. “They were getting covered well, so we got to take some shots.”
Perimeter shooting was a big factor in last night’s game, with Pacific hitting 7-20 threes and Santa Barbara hitting 4-16. The Tigers ran a 2-3 zone most of the night, and with the packing of the key, the Gauchos made most of their shots off fast breaks and outside the 10-foot range. In contrast, Santa Barbara ran a very aggressive man defense, forcing the Tigers into taking almost half their shots from beyond the arc.
“We need a nice mix of outside and inside shots,” French said. “If you can get an 18 foot shot with 25 seconds left, you can probably get it with 10 seconds left. I don’t want to settle for those shots that early.”
Despite the solid shooting of the Gauchos, the Tigers managed to close the gap in the second half, and Pacific even managed to grab a lead for half a minute. Santa Barbara has had no problem this season pulling away from competitors, but, as French admits, the team still has a bit of an issue with ending games early.
“Sloppiness at each possession hurt us,” French said. “I think Pacific’s guards are young; we got a lot of turnovers. But we haven’t been able to put people away; that’s a definite growth area for us.”
On a poor shooting night for the Gauchos, Wilson still managed to take over the team’s production as she has always been known to do, and finished with 11 points, a ridiculous 8 steals and 7 boards. Freshman forward Margaret Johnson, who has had solid games whenever she gets minutes, let the team with 8 boards in 17 minutes, including 5 on the offensive end. Junior guard Lauren Pedersen had another crazy night running the point, with a team-high 5 assists along with 4 steals and 9 points.
The Gauchos will attempt to continue their three-month winning streak on Saturday against the UC Davis Aggies with a 1 p.m. game in the Thunderdome.