The UCSB women’s basketball team is 10-0 in conference, so naturally every Big West team is gunning for the Gauchos. Cal Poly wants it even more.
The two teams will square off for the second time this season this Saturday in San Luis Obispo, and the Mustangs are likely to have revenge on their minds. After all, the first match between the squads saw an improbable 16-point comeback for Santa Barbara. This turnaround came after Poly had roared to a 29-13lead and held the Gauchos to four first-half field goals. Santa Barbara ended up with an impressive 55-45 victory.
The comeback win was UCSB’s seventh straight victory (on its way to 10 in a row) and one of the more impressive on the season. This time, the Gauchos are hoping things go a little smoother.
Key to that success will be the continued phenomenal play of the defense. Santa Barbara (15-7, 10-0 Big West) has allowed opponents to shoot at a measly 33.8 percent all season long, which is good for fifth in the nation. Moreover, the Gauchos have held opponents to 40 points or less five times already this year — and are 13-1 when allowing less than 60. Cal Poly, who managed only 16 second-half points in the last contest, will need to do much better than that if they hope to best UCSB this time around.
While the defense clearly is team-oriented, senior guard Lauren Pedersen and sixth-year center Jenna Green are racking up the numbers. Pedersen is averaging 2.6 steals every contest, and Green gets 2.3 blocks per game. Both of those statistics are conference highs. These two are also heavy offensive contributors, and both have been known to take over games when need be.
The two are first and second on the team in points, with Pedersen averaging 12.4 and Green close behind with 10.7. Pedersen even set a record last weekend by hitting her 29th consecutive free throw — the best streak in school history. She unsurprisingly leads the conference in free-throw percentage at 88.8 percent.
The Mustangs (15-7, 7-3 Big West) certainly have some offense to hang their hats on. They rank second in the conference in offensive output and first in field goal percentage. Sophomore forward Kristina Santiago leads the way with 15.5 points per game — third in the Big West — and 5.3 rebounds. She also receives a lot of help from senior forward Megan Harrison, who averages 12.5 points per game.
At 10-0 in conference, it looks like smooth sailing for UCSB from here on out. However, looks can be deceiving. The remaining six conference games should be treacherous, and include the Gauchos’ top three contenders on the road. Cal Poly is one of those three, and if Santa Barbara can pull out a win it could signal good things to come.
Game-time this Saturday is 4 p.m. in San Luis Obispo.