Saying goodbye is never easy, and the seniors of the UCSB women’s basketball team learned that lesson with a hard-fought 56-48 win against Cal State Northridge on Saturday afternoon. The win — which completed a perfect conference home record — was the final home game of five Gauchos’ careers.
Seniors Jenna Green and Lauren Pedersen led the way for Santa Barbara, as the former had 20 points and the latter nearly earned a triple double (11 rebounds, eight points and seven assists). Classmates Whitney Warren, Sha’Rae Gibbons and Kat Suderman started as well, and all five earned standing ovations during the pre-game ceremony honoring their achievements.
The game itself started out well for UCSB, as an early 9-0 run propelled the Gauchos to a six-point lead. However, as would become a theme throughout the contest, the Matadors refused to go away. The Santa Barbara lead fluctuated between three and seven points for the remainder of the half, and when halftime rolled around the two teams were embroiled in a 29-23 battle.
Then, immediately after the break, things started to turn UCSB’s way. After a Northridge three, the Gauchos put together a quick 8-0 run in just under a minute and a half. Sitting at 37-26, Santa Barbara continued to keep the pressure on. With only ten minutes remaining, UCSB had an 11-point lead and seemed ready to cruise to victory. But, as was the case in the first half, things were hardly smooth.
Cold shooting by Santa Barbara, especially from the charity stripe, led to a 12-5 Matador run. With just 22 seconds remaining, CSUN had narrowed the gap to only four points.
That 52-48 mark was the closest things would get though, and two free throws from Green iced the game in the final seconds. Despite the relative difficulty of the game, the team was happy just to pick up the win.
“We have a target on our backs, but we’re still the defending conference champs until you take it away from us,” Warren said. “Don’t mark our success with the margin… A five or six point win shouldn’t reflect the type of team we are.”
The victory improves UCSB’s record to 18-9, and 13-1 in the Big West. Northridge, meanwhile, drops to 6-20 and 3-10 in conference. The Gauchos sit atop the Big West standings for now, but have a huge showdown looming at UC Riverside on Thursday. The winner of that game will likely take home the regular season conference crown.
“We’re excited… They’re a great team,” Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We’ll be ready.”