The Thunderdome is never an easy place to play for opposing squads, and this year’s UCSB women’s basketball team has made it even tougher. The Gauchos are 7-0 against Big West competition in its confines, and are trying to round out a perfect home conference season Saturday against Cal State Northridge on senior night.
UCSB, currently resting at 17-9 and 12-1 in conference, will be fighting to maintain their slim lead over UC Riverside in the Big West table. At this late stage in the season, that alone is more than enough drama to motivate a squad. However, the Gauchos have an extra incentive as well: for five key players, this will be the last game they ever play in the T-Dome.
“You only get one college career,” senior forward Kat Suderman said. “It’s definitely going to be surreal on Saturday.”
Seniors Suderman, Jenna Green, Sha’Rae Gibbons, Whitney Warren and Lauren Pedersen have given a combined 23 years of work to UCSB basketball, and make up an irreplaceable graduating class.
“I’ve been here for five years now, and I’ve seen senior days come and… as a teammate you don’t really [understand] until you’re there,” Suderman said.
The five veterans have led the Gauchos to several excellent seasons over the years, and have the potential to leave an even longer-standing mark on the program with this year’s success. But to win another Big West title, they first have to get through Northridge Saturday night.
The Matadors are near the bottom of the barrel in the Big West, and currently sport a 6-19 record (3-9 in conference.) They have won just one road game all season long, and will be hard-pressed to change that on Saturday. However, Northridge does have a variety of talent at hand, and could undoubtedly pose a threat to UCSB.
Senior point guard Tonicia Tademy is hands down the leading helper in the conference, averaging 6.64 assists per contest — over 50 more total than second place. Senior Whitney Ligon averages 11.4 points per game and junior Katrina Thompson brings home an impressive 6.3 rebounds to lead her team in the paint.
The last time these squads met up was Jan. 28, when the Gauchos cruised to a 75-58 victory, behind 26 points and 13 rebounds from Green. Gibbons, Pedersen and junior Jordan Franey also added double-digit points with 10 apiece. Pedersen also added six assists.
The game will be Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Thunderdome.