After a week of practice aimed at atoning for an abysmal shooting performance in Reno, the UCSB women’s basketball team showed they were still a long way from a finished product, falling victim to a 65-40 blowout loss to a visiting LMU squad they had beaten by 10 last year in Los Angeles. Playing without their leading scorer in junior center Mekia Valentine due to a hand injury, the Gauchos (0-3 overall) shot only 29.8 percent from the floor and 25 percent from behind the arc, numbers akin to their 26 percent shooting and 0-17 three-point performance against Nevada last Monday.

“It’s definitely a new year, but that’s no excuse for us to lose,” sophomore point guard Emilie Johnson said. “We have to play Gaucho basketball, and we didn’t do that this afternoon. No matter how old we are, how old they are, it’s about playing our game. There’s no excuse for that.”

It was all Loyola Marymount (2-2) from the opening tip until the final whistle. Playing in front of 1538 fans at the Thunderdome, the Lions opened the game on a 15-4 run that buried a struggling Santa Barbara squad early. Sophomore guard Alex Cowling, who led the Lions in scoring the last time these two teams met, scored 10 of her game-high 17 points during that opening run.

Senior guard Megan Williams got the Gauchos going with a block on the defensive end that led to a fast break layup at the other end, spurring a 13-5 run that cut the deficit to five with 6:46 remaining in the first half. It was the closest UCSB got for the rest of the game, as LMU responded with five straight points of their own to go into halftime leading by nine. The home team entered the locker room having shot 31 percent from the floor on 9-29 shooting, making only one of their five three-pointers.

“We just got shut down,” Johnson said. “[Cowling] was killing us. … It was just about stepping up. It wasn’t about them; it was about us making changes.”

Whatever changes were made at the half, none of them could solve UCSB’s shooting woes. The Gauchos still continued to shoot poorly in the second half, going 8 for 28 from the field and 2 for 7 from downtown. The Lions, on the other hand, were a steady 5 for 11 from three and shot 46 percent in the second half, leading by 29 at one point.

While the Gauchos won the battle of the boards 37-33, a lethal combination of cold shooting, 16 turnovers and a lack of a serious inside threat proved to be their undoing.

Johnson finished with a team-high 10 points, including a pair of threes, but the real silver lining for UCSB laid in the play of senior guard Chris Spencer. Finally healthy, the Wisconsin transfer made the most of her first appearance this season with nine points and eight rebounds.

“We need leadership right now,” Spencer said. “My legs are still not where they were, because I’ve been out there for three or four days, but I tried to be confident.”

The nonconference road does not get any easier for a winless Santa Barbara, as they play host to Kentucky this Wednesday at noon. The undefeated Wildcats (4-0) are coming off a 65-55 drubbing of UT Chattanooga in Lexington.