Last weekend UCSB was toppled by Cal State Bakersfield for its first loss in 10 games, and let’s just say the Gauchos are looking to take their frustration out on someone. That “someone” might end up being Cal State Fullerton, as the Titans come into the Thunderdome tonight trying to upend the home squad.
That feat certainly will not be easy, as the Gauchos have lost only one game at home all season (a two-point loss to Harvard) and are an undefeated 8-0 in conference halfway through Big West play. Adding to the Titans’ historical dilemma is the fact that UCSB has owned the series for 14 years — going 31-0 in the matchup since 1995.
“We just need to keep in mind that we have a huge target on our backs,” senior center Jenna Green said. “Especially after beating everyone the first time around, everyone’s going to be really coming after us.”
Green in particular has been on a hot streak for SB, averaging 19.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in her last three games. However, she is hardly one to take the credit for UCSB’s recent successes.
“We’ve been extremely balanced, and that’s what’s making us so great,” she said. “Any given night, someone’s showing up. … It’s just each one of us recognizing when it’s our turn to step up.”
And while beating Fullerton is something the Gauchos have done handily in recent memory, they will still have to continue playing the high level of basketball their fans have become accustomed to in order to win tonight.
The Titans (6-13, 3-5 Big West) are on a five-game losing skid, but do have some very solid players. Featuring for Fullerton is senior forward Toni Thomas, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 14.5 and 7.6 per game, respectively. In the backcourt is sophomore guard Lauren Chow, who averages over 3.5 assists per game to lead the team.
UCSB (13-7, 8-0 Big West) has had solid play from Green, along with that very balanced offense she talked about. In their last seven games, the Gauchos have had at least three players reach double figures. Couple that with the defensive fortitude Santa Barbara possesses, and this is a very tough team to beat.
On defense, Santa Barbara is giving up a paltry 54.9 points per game, and is fifth in the country in opposing field goal percentage at 34.1 percent. That defense will feature into UCSB’s future exploits.
“It’s just going to be coming out, being sound defensively,” Green said. She added: “and about really coming on strong early.”
If the Gauchos play at the level they are capable of, and you can bet Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb will have them fired up after the loss, Fullerton may be in for a tough night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.