For some teams, a weekend split on the road against two conference opponents would be considered a success. Such is not the case for the UCSB women’s basketball squad. Despite a resounding 69-50 win against UC Davis on Saturday, Thursday’s 59-50 loss to Pacific was the real story. After all, it was the first time a Big West team had managed to best the Gauchos this season — in 12 tries.
“I’m not a big believer in the ‘you have to take a loss to learn lessons’ mentality,” Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. Then again, it is hard to argue with results. “We’re very pleased with how we responded on Saturday,” she added.
The weekend’s action started off in Stockton on Thursday, where the Pacific Tigers were looking for revenge. Earlier this season UCSB shut down UOP at the Thunderdome, and the Tigers obviously had that game in mind.
“They clearly approached it like it was their Super Bowl,” Gottlieb said. “We always have to be the team that wants the game more and out-toughs the opponent.”
Despite any disadvantages in mentality, the Gauchos were entrenched in a tight battle until late in the contest. With the Tigers leading 45-43 and little over seven minutes remaining in regulation, an exciting finish seemed inevitable. It was then, however, that the cold-shooting bug hit UCSB. Over the next six minutes, Pacific went on a 12-3 run while Santa Barbara went 1-9 from the floor and 1-4 from the free throw line. As the game entered its waning seconds, UCSB was down by more than 10 and the game had been decided.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well,” Gottlieb said. “We sort of let [Pacific] push us around a little bit.”
The poor shooting night was exemplified in a 17.2 percent second half field goal clip, as well as some individual statistics. The normally accurate junior forward Jordan Franey missed six of her nine free throw attempts, while senior guard Lauren Pedersen went 1-13 from beyond the arc. It was only point guard Emilie Johnson who excelled from the floor, as the freshman put up 14 points on 5-8 shooting.
After losing their first Big West game of the season — and the first of Gottlieb’s career — the Gauchos had some frustration to take out. UC Davis proved an adequate vessel.
Though the first half proved a fairly even affair, but the second frame saw UCSB come out of its shell. With 16:30 remaining, and the score tied at 34, Santa Barbara began to pull away from the Aggies. An 11-0 run ballooned into a 25-7 run, and 10 minutes later the game was no longer in question.
Among the many positives from the game, Gottlieb pointed out one that stuck out in particular.
“I thought our ball movement was unbelievable,” she said, pointing to an absurd 25 assists on 28 made baskets. A big reason for that was the play of Pedersen, who registered a double-double on 11 points and 10 helpers. Also of note was the play of senior point guard Sha’Rae Gibbons, who exploded for 17 points on 6-7 shooting in her first start since injuring her knee against Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 5.
“[Gibbons is] our leader,” Gottlieb said. “People feed off her energy, and I felt that she provided that for us.”
With the split, the Gauchos move to 17-8 overall, and 12-1 in the Big West. That leaves them tied with Riverside for first place in conference, and that will make the final three league games all the more exciting. Next up though is a nonconference tiff with Oregon State. That game will be Tuesday night at the Thunderdome, starting at 7.