It was a disappointing start to the season for the UCSB women’s basketball team on Thursday night when they lost an exhibition game 53-49 to opponent Cal State Monterey Bay.
In front of a Thunderdome crowd of 1,325, the Gauchos shot an inefficient 9.1 percent on three pointers compared to the Otter’s mark of 36 percent, and were unable to win despite senior center Mekia Valentine’s 11 points and 17 rebounds.
“I think we are going to be a good three-point shooting team this year,” Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “[Melissa Zornig and Emilie Johnson] are some of the best three point shooters I’ve been around. We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, we just were never comfortable or in a rhythm.”
Defense, a strong point for UCSB in previous years, was missing throughout the game as Monterey Bay had numerous open looks from beyond the arc.
“This is a wake up call for all of us and to build off this is a must,” junior guard Emilie Johnson said. “They came out fired up and we didn’t match their intensity. No matter who you’re playing, you have to match their intensity. I feel like we didn’t match it and we just need to bring more.”
Tied 26-26 at halftime, UCSB came out slow, falling behind 47-32 with nine minutes left in the game. A three-point play by sophomore forward Sweets Underwood and five straight points by freshman guard Melissa Zornig sparked a comeback for the Gauchos. After pulling within two points on a Valentine free throw with just over four minutes left, Monterey Bay was able to score four straight and end the Gauchos’ run.
“I think tonight was a big disappointment but I am eager to see how we respond, I really am,” Gottlieb said. “This game is not going to go on our [record], luckily for us, but it is going to go on our minds and that’s up to us on how we react to it, whether we use it as a springboard to take off or sulk in disappointment.”
Emilie Johnson scored eight points and recorded five rebounds in the loss. Underwood and Zornig each provided a spark off the bench posting seven points apiece.
For the visiting Otters, senior guard Michelle Santizo and junior guard Erika Ward led the offensive attack, combining for 33 points and seven three pointers.
“The guards just have to do a better job being out there putting their hands up and stopping them,” Johnson said. “We can’t allow that to happen.”
Going forward, UCSB clearly stressed the importance of improving on the defensive end of the ball.
“We are excited about the year,” Gottlieb said. “Nothing changes because we had a disappointing performance tonight. I think that we have a lot more athleticism, we have more length, we have more versatile pieces, and the players we are returning this year are better.”
Also contributing to the Gauchos were sophomore and junior guards Angelei Aguirre and Kelsey Adrian with four and three points, respectively. Senior forward Margaret Johnson and Aguirre led the team in assists with four.
“I think it was a good test for us,” Valentine said. “We all played really hard and I think that we tried doing things that we have been practicing all along and that, over time, we will improve.”
UCSB will next travel south to play a 6 p.m. game on Nov. 12 against Pepperdine.