The UCSB women’s basketball team is coming home from their road trip just in time for the holidays. However, the Gauchos have a couple of obstacles to hurdle before they can celebrate — and that is not even counting finals.
Santa Barbara faces two foes this weekend at the Thunderdome, starting tonight against Nevada, and continuing Sunday afternoon against Gonzaga.
UCSB hopes this week’s home stand will get it back on track, after losing three in a row on the road. With a 1-3 record, the Gauchos are looking for a win to get some momentum to swing back into their favor.
To best the Nevada Wolf Pack, UCSB will just have to play off its history against the squad. Santa Barbara holds a 15-3 all time advantage in the series, and the last four consecutively. However, the squads have not met since Feb of 2000, nearly a decade ago — so past performance could have very little influence over the outcome.
In fact, it is the Wolf Pack that would appear to have the advantage in this year’s match. Nevada is riding high on a three-game winning streak, including an upset over #7 Louisville in the Nugget Classic title most recently. Those games, though, were at home — and the Wolf Pack is still looking for its first road win as well.
Nevada is led by senior point guard Dellena Criner, who is averaging a whopping 17 points per game so far this season. Criner, who won the Nugget Classic MVP award, also leads the team handily in steals and assists. She is also third on the team in rebounds with 5.3 per game.
Also contributing for the Wolf Pack is senior forward Cherlanda Franklin, who leads the team both in rebounds and blocks. Franklin’s nine blocks this season are more than twice as many as any of her teammates have.
On Sunday, UCSB welcomes another imposing threat in the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga is 7-1 so far on the season, and can expect big performances from Courtney Vandersloot and Heather Bowman.
Vandersloot, a sophomore guard, is leading the team in points and assists with 19.4 and 7.2 per game, respectively. However, due to a sprained ankle she may not play against the Gauchos on Sunday.
Bowman, who is a junior forward, scores 18.6 points per game and leads the team with a 7.6 rebound average.
The Zags are also coming off a victory over a ranked opponent in No. 15 Virginia, and are now tallying some votes to be ranked themselves. In fact, Gonzaga is just a couple of votes away from entering the nation’s top 25 — a fact that the Gauchos will certainly be taking into account on Sunday.
UCSB has been led this season by senior Lauren Pedersen, who averages just under 15 points per game. The guard also leads the team in rebounds with 6.5 per game, steals with eight on the season, and is second in assists.
The Gauchos also have senior leadership in the post, with seniors Kat Suderman and Jenna Green there to pick up rebounds and points in the paint.
On the perimeter, a freshman has started every game at the point for UCSB, as Emilie Johnson has filled in for senior Sha’Rae Gibbons since her injury.
While UCSB has dropped its last three, a couple of wins this week could turn things around heading into conference play. Tip-off tonight is set for 7 p.m., and Sunday’s match will be at 2 p.m.