It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for the UCSB women’s basketball team. After squeaking by UC Irvine in its conference home opener, the Gauchos (4-9 overall, 1-0 in the Big West) will now hit the road to contend with UC Davis and University of the Pacific this weekend. Over the past two seasons, UCSB has gone 30-2 in regular-season conference play, with its two losses coming against the Aggies (8-6, 1-1) in 2007 and the Tigers (3-9, 1-1) in 2008.
“I know from past years that [Davis and Pacific] are so tough to play against, especially on their home court,” said senior forward Jordan Franey. “I think in practice it’ll be crucial to learn their sets, learn their offenses, but I think just going in with a mentality of champions will be huge.”
Santa Barbara begins the weekend Friday against a Davis side led by 2008 All-Big West First Teamer Paige Mintun. The junior forward leads Davis with 12.8 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Right behind Mintun in both categories is fellow junior forward Heidi Heintz, who has started every game for the Aggies, collecting a team-high in rebounds (61) and points (157) on the year.
Coming off a medical redshirt year, senior guard Haylee Donaghe returns to the Pavilion averaging 6.6 points per game, as well as making her presence felt defensively, earning a team-high 31 steals. As a team, Davis has boasted the strongest scoring defense in the Big West, limiting opponents to an average of 60.4 points per game, which is slightly lower than UCSB’s allowance of 62.1 points per game. However, UCD ranks fourth in the conference in points per game (64.2), a stat the Gauchos bring up the rear in with an average of 55.8.
Saturday afternoon against the Tigers, UCSB looks to avenge its only conference defeat of 2008, a 59-50 drubbing in Stockton. On the plus side for Santa Barbara, Pacific brings in one of the conference’s worst defenses to the weekend rematch, a defense that’s given up an average of 71.9 points per game. The offense hasn’t held much luster either, shooting 37.1 percent from the field while allowing opponents to average 44 percent. The Tigers are led offensively by sophomore forward Christina Thompson, who has averaged a team-high 12.9 points. Senior forward Emma Head has proven to be a continued threat on the boards with a team-leading 6.6 per game.
As for the Gauchos, UCSB needs to shore up its turnover woes if it expects to have a legitimate shot at a 3-0 conference record. Santa Barbara ranks next to last in the conference in giveaways, committing an average of 21.5 per game, which has led an underachieving offense and easy baskets for the opposing side. UCSB also ranks near the bottom of the conference in free-throw percentage, shooting just 63 percent as a team. Look for Head Coach Lindsey Gottlieb to mark these areas as points of emphasis in the coming encounters.
After a brief trip to northern California, UCSB returns home to host Long Beach State Jan. 14. As always, admission for students is free.