Despite lacking the valuable services of junior center Mekia Valentine due to illness, the UCSB women’s basketball team still managed to bowl over Cal State Northridge 67-54 last night at the Matadome. Freshman forward Sweets Underwood went 5-5 from the floor as Valentine’s understudy while snagging 12 boards to boot, posting her first double-double sporting a Gaucho uniform. The win gives UCSB (10-16 overall, 7-7 in Big West) the regular-season sweep of CSUN (4-21, 2-11), having beaten the Matadors 69-55 previously at home.

“[Underwood] played a terrific game,” Head Coach Lindsey Gottlieb said. “She picked a good night to have the best game of her career. She got her first double-double, had great energy off the bench and really pushed the pace for us.”

While the 13-point final score differential would not indicate it, the contest was far from a one-sided rout. Northridge held a 5-2 lead early after senior guard Katrina Thompson drained a three at the 17:12 mark and kept it close for the next few minutes, but were ultimately unable to sustain their advantage. UCSB proceeded to reel off 14 unanswered, burying the home team under a deficit they never quite came back from. Santa Barbara sharpshooter Emilie Johnson contributed a pair of treys toward the first-half run, helping the Gauchos establish a 39-30 lead going into the break. By game’s end, the sophomore guard led all scorers with 21 points for Johnson’s third 20-plus point game this season.

“With our second-leading scorer out,” Gottlieb said, “We needed [Johnson] to step up and she did. Everyone shot the ball well tonight, but she did a good job also of managing the game.”

Entering the second half already with a nine-point cushion, UCSB matched the Matadors basket for basket, leading 56-46 with 6:51 to play in regulation. Then the home team made their final run, netting eight unanswered over the next two minutes to cut the lead to 56-54. At that point it seemed as if CSUN ran out of steam — drained from crafting its near-comeback. UCSB ended the game on an 11-0 run for a final score 67-54. The Gauchos shot only 33.3 percent in the second half, but in the end it was enough to outlast Northridge on their court. Senior Meagan Williams did her share of damage to keep the Gaucho lead intact, posting 16 points, two steals and an assist. Thompson carried the Matadors with a team-high 19 points.

UCSB returns home this Saturday for a Senior Day date with rival Cal Poly, a team that currently sits atop the Big West standings. Seniors Ariana Gnekow, Chris Spencer, Meagan Williams, Jordan Franey and Jessie Goble will be honored before tip-off. As always, admission for students is free.