Beginning their season on the road, the UCSB women’s basketball team dropped their first two games 60-55 to Seattle and 65-51 to Portland State.
“Obviously it’s disappointing,” senior guard Emilie Johnson said. “We’re not content being 0-2, but we’re going to keep fighting and keep improving. We’re only going to go up from here.”
In Sunday’s loss, the Gauchos never led, and trailed by as much as 14. The lead was twice cut to six, but the Vikings always responded.
“We didn’t set the tone early,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “We’re not the type of team that we can dig a hole and then pull it out every night. We have to find a better way to start.”
Turnovers plagued UCSB, as the team committed 18 turnovers, leading to 20 Viking points. Portland also grabbed 17 offensive rebounds which led to 13 second chance points.
“We got out-rebounded and I think that’s what hurt us,” junior forward Sweets Underwood said. “We gave Portland too many second chances. We struggled to box out their bigs.”
The Gauchos’ leading scorer, Johnson, struggled offensively, shooting just 2-12 for four points. However, Underwood stepped up to tally 12 points and five rebounds.
“I can’t expect Emilie to score 20 to 30 points every night,” Mitchell said. “There are going to be times when she needs to run the show, but at the same time other perimeter players will need to step up and carry the burden.”
In Mitchell’s first official game against Seattle, UCSB trailed by 11 before pulling within three with half a minute remaining. Johnson and sophomore guard Melissa Zornig both had opportunities to tie, but both were unsuccessful.
“We had the shots at the end, but the more important plays are the ones that put us at that point,” Johnson said. “Kelsey hit a big three to cut the lead and they missed some free throws. We were playing from behind, though, so we need to make those plays earlier so that we’re ahead instead.”
The Gauchos failed to find an answer for senior Talisa Rhea, who came up with big shots to keep the Gauchos in check. The 5’11’’ guard finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
“She’s a great overall player,” Mitchell said. “It’s not like she’s just a shooter. If we went back we’d play her with a box and one.”
Johnson also tallied 20 points to lead the Gauchos, and Underwood contributed 14 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
“[Sweets is] playing up to her potential,” Johnson said. “I really enjoy playing alongside her. She’s so aggressive. She can average a double-double this year.”
The differences in the game for UCSB may have been points in the paint and second chance opportunities, where they were outscored 30-16 and 14-4, respectively. The Redhawks also led the Gauchos in assists with 16-7.
“The rebounding is very disturbing on my end,” Mitchell said. “We can’t be out-rebounded because we’re oversized. It’s a mentality.”
UCSB plays its first home games of the year Thursday against St. Mary’s and Saturday against Loyola Marymount.