Hoping to build on the momentum earned through a 71-34 shellacking of Pacific Thursday night, the UCSB women’s basketball team accomplished exactly the opposite. The Gauchos dropped a 62-54 home decision to UC Davis on Saturday at the Thunderdome in a game in which they never led.

Santa Barbara (8-14 overall, 5-5 in Big West) started uncharacteristically slow compared to their 44-6 halftime advantage over Pacific, recording only two points during the contest’s first 9:30.

“I think we started off the game just mentally not focused,” senior guard Ariana Gnekow said. “The first possession we had was a turnover, which led to another turnover and another turnover. Davis took advantage of that, they’re a great team, and great teams take advantage when we mentally break down. They took it to us.”

The visiting Aggies (15-7, 7-2) did indeed take it to the Gauchos early, opening the match with a 17-2 run. After burying themselves with seven of their 13 first-half turnovers during that stretch, UCSB mounted a 19-6 run of their own, cutting the deficit to two with 1:26 remaining. Each team would contribute a basket before the first half closed with a 25-23 score, a surprisingly low differential considering each team’s prowess from the field. Santa Barbara only managed 27.3 percent on 6-22 shooting, compared to a Davis squad that shot 45.5 percent on 10-22 from the floor. Neither team made a significant statement from beyond the arc, sinking three treys apiece.

The two Big West foes traded baskets coming out of intermission with the intention of establishing a perimeter game, and they did just that. UCSB turned in its best three-point shooting performance in a half this year in that second half, going 7-10 from beyond the arc, but the Aggies matched them shot for shot (shooting 6-12 themselves) to keep the game close. Then, at the 8:38 mark with the game tied at 43, Davis made its move. UCD turned up the defense, capitalizing on eight Gaucho turnovers to outscore the home team 19-11 over that final stretch. Junior guard Paige Mintun led three Aggies in double figures with a game-high 17 points and five rebounds. Junior wing Heidi Heintz was one of those three, contributing 12 points and 10 rebounds for the games only double-double.

“It was just very frustrating,” Gnekow said. “Every time we hit a three, they’d hit a three. It was one of those games where we just could not get ahead. It’s heartbreaking.”
On the plus side for the home team, which could remain tied for fourth in the conference or fall to fifth depending on Cal State Fullerton, senior guard Chris Spencer remained on her hot streak, notching a career-high tying 14 points and six rebounds. Gnekow had a notable game as well, posting a career-high 12 points and six rebounds.

“If we would have won that game,” Gnekow said, “I would have been fine not playing at all. As long as we got the win.”

UCSB stays at home to complete their four-game home stand with UC Riverside next Thursday. As always, admission for students is free.