For the first part of the Big West season, the UCSB women’s basketball team was winning games with defense, not offense. Now, transitioning into the second leg of conference play, it appears the Gauchos have a new strategy: win with both.
Santa Barbara (13-6, 8-0 Big West) eclipsed the 70 point mark for the second game in a row, en route to a comfortable 75-58 victory at Cal State Northridge. The win was UCSB’s 10th consecutively, and keeps Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s squad unbeaten in conference.
“We’re definitely excited about the win,” Gottlieb said.
But while the first-year head coach has yet to lose a conference game in her career at the helm, she recognizes there is still a lot of work to be done.
“We talked about being the best that we can be tonight, and I think we started a little bit flat.”
One player who came out strong and stayed that way was senior center Jenna Green. Green was unstoppable for the Gauchos, bullying her way underneath for 26 points and 13 rebounds. The Matadors never found an answer.
“We did a good job of finding [Green],” Gottlieb said. “She was really feeling it, and [senior guard Lauren Pedersen] in particular did a really good job recognizing that and feeding her the ball.” Turns out, that was just about all the Gauchos needed to do.
The game started off fairly even, with both teams exchanging leads for the first 15 minutes or so. With the Matadors ahead 23-20 and 6:20 remaining in the first half, UCSB began to hit its stride. The Gauchos went on a 16-5 run to end the half, resulting in a favorable 36-28 score when the teams hit the locker room.
UCSB fully put the gane out of reach early in the second half, though, with an 11-1 run that expanded the margin to 16 points.
“We had a run there in the second half where we really broke the game open,” Gottlieb said.
The rest of the match played out with less than palpable drama. The Gaucho lead fluctuated between 8 and 21 points, and as the buzzer sounded UCSB had a 17-point victory in hand.
While Green was clearly the star, three other Gauchos registered in double digits, with 10 points apiece: Pedersen, junior forward Jordan Franey, and senior point guard Sha’Rae Gibbons.
Pedersen, normally one of Santa Barbara’s best scoring options, has been in somewhat of a slump recently, and that continued with a 2-13 shooting performance. However, what the guard lacked in shooting accuracy she made up for in passing and free throws, with six assists and a perfect 5-5 mark from the charity stripe.
With the win, UCSB has now beaten each team in conference once, and leads the conference by a full two games. However, the second half of the season should be trickier, as Santa Barbara will have to travel to conference contenders UC Riverside, UC Davis, Cal Poly and Pacific.
Keeping that in mind, 8-0 in conference still is hardly a bad place to be.