After splitting last weekend’s road games at UC Davis and Pacific, the UCSB women’s basketball team returns home today to host visiting Long Beach State, a team the Gauchos (6-10 overall, 2-1 in Big West) have not lost to since 2006 or dropped a home decision to since 1991. In their last meeting, Santa Barbara cruised to a 74-62 road win at the Pyramid, shooting 54 percent from the floor and 60 percent from long range.

“We know that every team makes every game against us their main game of the year,” senior forward Jordan Franey said. “We can’t expect any team to take us lightly. We know [Long Beach] has improved so much since last year, so it’s nice to know we have three days of practice before we have to face them.”

One thing Long Beach State (6-9, 2-1) will reintroduce to the matchup that UCSB did not see last year is senior guard Karina Figueroa. Tabbed one of the Big West’s All-Conference candidates this season, Figueroa returns to the court having received a medical redshirt in 2008, making an immediate impact on the 49er offense. The Corona native leads LBSU with 17.6 points and 5.3 assists per game, stats that both rank within the top two in the Big West.

Figueroa hasn’t done it alone on the scoreboard either, with fellow seniors Lauren Sims and Ally Wade also averaging double figures in points per game. Sims, whose younger sister Amanda is a sophomore on the squad, owns the 49ers’ best three-point percentage at 48 percent, while Wade averages a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game. As a team, LBSU has held opponents to 39 percent shooting while averaging 42 percent from the floor.

UCSB, on the other hand, will need to continue shooting a high percentage from floor if they are to overcome their turnover woes. The Gauchos, owners of the a conference-worst -6.87 turnover margin, have needed 42 percent shooting in their first three conference matches just to stay competitive in a three-game stretch where they committed a ghastly 83 turnovers. On the plus side, senior guard Meagan Williams has begun to emerge as a go-to scorer for Santa Barbara, earning 9.5 points per game on 46 percent shooting during conference play.

If UCSB can hang on to the ball long enough to shoot a respectable percentage from the field while at the same time containing the explosive Figueroa, look for the Gauchos to succeed Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome. As always, admission is free for students.