With a season-opening win under its belt, the UCSB women’s basketball team hits the road today to face the Fresno State Bulldogs, and again on Sunday to face the Arizona Wildcats. The Gauchos hope to get some momentum going in the early season, and their first road trip should provide an excellent opportunity to do just that.
“We approach this road trip saying we want to go and win two games,” Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We have the mindset of ‘We’re going on the road to win both games.'”
That might not be so easy for the Gauchos, as Fresno State is a tough team to beat at home. The Bulldogs (1-0) are 42-7 at home under Head Coach Adrian Wiggins, and boast a 10-game home winning streak.
Fresno State plays an up-tempo brand of basketball, and UCSB needs to be careful not to fall into that trap.
“We don’t want to play their game,” Gottlieb said. “If we try to play the way Fresno State plays, they’re going to have the advantage because that’s how they play all the time.”
Arizona (2-1), meanwhile, is a solid team from the strong Pac-10 conference, but the Gauchos historically have fared well against the Wildcats. In the two teams’ last meeting in 2005, Santa Barbara came away with a win.
UCSB has a lot of scoring options, but it was senior Lauren Pedersen’s spectacular play against USD on Sunday that should gain the most attention in opponents’ game plans. However, while Pedersen will likely be heavily guarded, she still has the ability to make a difference for the Gauchos.
“If Lauren wants to pour in 27 points every night, I’m not going to stop her,” Gottlieb said. “Lauren’s going to get her looks, whatever we do.”
The senior guard is far from Santa Barbara’s only weapon, though. In the frontcourt, UCSB has two stellar seniors in Kat Suderman and Jenna Green, along with sophomore Ashlee Brown. Any of the three has the potential to dominate the post and will likely get a lot of attention against a Fresno State squad with no players over 6-1. Green and Suderman are 6-4.
The Gauchos are led at the point by freshman Emilie Johnson — a tall task for the young player. However, Gottlieb has a lot of faith in her point guard.
“We have a lot of confidence in [Johnson]. She’s fearless.”
While the weekend only holds the second and third games of the season, this road trip might go a long way in foreshadowing how this team will fare under its new coach. If the Gauchos come away with two road wins in tough locations, they could be in for quite a season.
Tip-off for the Fresno State game is at 7 p.m. tonight, at the Bulldogs’ Save Mart Center. Sunday’s game will be at the McKale Center in Arizona at 2 p.m.