The Blue-Green rivalry is set to kick off on Thursday when the UCSB women’s basketball team hosts Cal Poly at the Thunderdome. Leading the all-time series 50-15, the Gauchos hope to continue their winning ways over the Mustangs, who currently own the top spot in the Big West at 7-0 in conference play.
[media-credit id=20125 align=”alignleft” width=”164″][/media-credit] Coming off a 69-32 victory over Fullerton on Saturday, the Gauchos record now stands at 10-8 (4-2 Big West), putting them in second place behind the Mustangs. While undefeated in conference play, defeating Cal State Northridge 82-52 in their last game, the Mustangs are 11-7 overall.
Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb explained how the team is excited to face its rivals, especially because they are undefeated in conference.
“There is always a great energy level surrounding the game. It might be a little heightened because they’ve been playing so well,” Gottlieb said.
Led by senior forward Mekia Valentine, UCSB has come out victorious in nine of its last 12 games while winning three of its last four. Valentine averages close to a double-double this season, scoring nearly 10 points per game while also averaging over nine boards.
Senior guard Rachel Clancy leads the Mustangs with over 16 points per game. She attempts seven three-pointers per game, hitting 40 percent of them on the season.
“[Clancy] is a really good shooter,” junior forward Kelsey Adrian said. “We’re going to have to lock up on her and not let her have any open looks. We have to make her work for every shot.”
Sophomore guard Angelei Aguirre said that Gottlieb has really focused on lowering the team’s turnover rate in practice. The Gauchos have committed an average of 25 in the last three games.
“They have been a huge problem,” Aguirre said. “We need to keep our turnovers down. We definitely can’t have another 20 turnover night or it will be a hard time winning this game.”
Offensively, junior guard Emilie Johnson leads the team with over 11 points per game. Freshman guard Melissa Zornig has been a spark plug for the team off the bench as of late, averaging 14 points per game in the last three games.
With the first round of conference games nearing an end, the Gauchos have had their difficulties thus far. Following a 33-point defeat at the hands of Riverside, the Gauchos responded with a 37-point victory over Fullerton at the Thunderdome.
Gottlieb attributed the turnaround to a solid week of practice.
“It’s late January and this is when conference play gets exciting,” Gottlieb said. “The Big West is clustered at the top, with the exception of Cal Poly who is clearly at the top. We are trying to focus on getting better so we can be prepared to beat anyone we face in conference.”
Tip-off against Cal Poly is set for 7 p.m. tonight.