The University of the Pacific Tigers came to the Thunderdome looking to out-tough the Gauchos Saturday afternoon. Their plan was not exactly a success.
In a physical affair featuring 51 personals and two foul outs, UCSB dominated Pacific from start to finish, winning 76-54. By ten minutes in, the game was hardly even in question.
“I thought it was our best game tip to buzzer,” first-year Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. She had plenty of reasons to feel that way.
Offensively, the team performed out of its mind. Outside of a rare poor shooting performance from senior guard Lauren Pedersen, the Gauchos were on fire from the court. UCSB hit 22-47 shots (21-35 discounting Pedersen) and set a season-high for total points. Moreover, Santa Barbara was consistent from the free-throw line as well, which came in handy with the copious contact being delivered by the Tigers.
On defense, Gottlieb’s Gauchos managed to hold Pacific to 27.1% shooting, including a meager 1-15 from beyond the arc. The Tigers were so far removed from their offensive comfort zone that they only managed three assists on the entire game. Further, UOP’s star player Amber Simmons was completely taken out of her game. The senior forward, who is considered one of the best players in the conference, managed only six points and two rebounds before fouling out of the game with over ten minutes to play.
“I love defensive challenges,” senior center Jenna Green said. The imposing post player likely had a great deal to do with Simmons’ struggles. Green tallied 3 blocks to go with her game-high 16 points.
“If there’s a better defensive presence in the conference I don’t know who it is,” said her coach.
The action started off quickly in UCSB’s favor, when midway through the first half the Gauchos found themselves on a 15-2 run, taking a 13-point lead. In fact, once the score reached 19-9 in the 11th minute, UOP would never get within single digits again.
Santa Barbara cruised into a 43-24 halftime lead, and came out of the locker room in the second half just as amped up as it had gone in. Withstanding a barrage of whistles from the referees and collisions from the Tigers, UCSB maintained the 20-point difference throughout the slow-moving second frame. By the end, with the game firmly in hand, Gottlieb gave her bench players some well-earned minutes to the delight of the Thunderdome crowd. Reserves Ariana Gnekow, Jessie Goble and Courtney Collishaw graced the floor for the closing minutes – likely a disappointing ending for a Tiger squad with loftier expectations.
With the win, UCSB (12-6) continues a nine-game winning streak, and moves to 7-0 in conference. Meanwhile, Pacific falls to 10-9 overall and 4-3 in the Big West.
Next up for UCSB is a road game with Cal State Northridge, and a subsequent trip to Cal State Bakersfield. And while the winning streak certainly cannot last forever, if the Gauchos keep playing at this level it is hard to see why not.