Lindsay Gottlieb is off to a good start. In her first regular season game as head coach, replacing the legendary Mark French, Gottlieb and her Gaucho squad earned a solid 75-66 victory over visiting USD.
“I’m not gonna lie, it feels really good,” Gottlieb said of her first career win as a head coach. “To be honest, I got a little emotional in the locker room.”
If her team continues to play like they did Sunday, she will have plenty more wins to celebrate.
San Diego (1-1) put up quite a fight, led mostly by a solid effort from center Amber Sprague. The 6’5″ senior dominated in the post, putting up 31 points and five rebounds. Unfortunately for the Toreros, UCSB had a star player having a breakout night as well.
Senior guard Lauren Pedersen put together a phenomenal effort for the Gauchos (1-0), scoring 27 points with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals to boot.
Santa Barbara’s leading scorer casually deflected any praise after the game. “I shot the ball a lot — it went in sometimes,” she said before lavishing praise on her teammates. “I have a lot of good players around me, that set good screens. … I just took what they gave me.”
Pedersen had already equaled her career high of 19 points by halftime, when the Gauchos were enjoying a comfortable 35-25 lead. But a slow start in the second half for UCSB made things interesting, and within four minutes, that 10-point differential had disappeared — becoming just a two-point margin.
The teams exchanged buckets for another six minutes or so before Pedersen gave the Gauchos the final boost they would need. After Toreros’ Kaila Mangrum sunk a layup to tie the game at 46 with 9:18 remaining, Pedersen struck. The senior cut to the basket and banked home an easy two points, which would give the Gauchos the lead for good.
Just seconds later, senior forward Kat Suderman registered a key steal and sent a pass to a fast-breaking Pedersen who finished for a much-needed momentum boost. The two buckets ignited a 16-6 run, putting the Gauchos in front 64-52 with under three minutes remaining and effectively sending the game out of reach for USD.
The Toreros hit a barrage of three-pointers at the end of the game, but the Gauchos kept sinking their free-throws to keep victory firmly in hand.
“At the end… when they hit those two threes, I wasn’t worried because I knew they were going to foul us,” Gottlieb said. “We just had a look about us like, ‘We’re going to step up and hit free throws.'”
Four Gauchos scored double figure points in the contest, and junior Jordan Franey was only a point away with nine. The balanced attack allowed UCSB to focus on defense, where it did a good job shutting down the Toreros attack. Aside from Sprague, no USD player scored more than seven points.
Senior guard Whitney Warren featured prominently for the Gauchos as well. While notching 10 points, Warren led all players with eight rebounds — an important factor due to Sprague and USD’s imposing size underneath.
UCSB will next play Thursday at Fresno State, where Gottlieb’s Gauchos will look to stay undefeated in her tenure. Tip-off for that game is at 7 p.m.