After a rough start to the season last weekend, UCSB women’s basketball hopes to rebound Thursday in their home opener against St. Mary’s.
“We want to get back on the floor,” junior guard Destini Mason said. “We don’t like having practices in between because we’re trying to get back and get a win. We hate starting off slow.”
The Gauchos begin a three game homestand after playing their first two games on the road. In their first game, UCSB cut Seattle’s lead to three and had two opportunities to tie the game, but couldn’t find the necessary three-point bucket. However, two days later against Portland State, the game was kept out of the Gauchos’ reach.
Rebounding and turnovers were two thorns in the side of the Gauchos this past weekend. Against Portland State, 18 turnovers led to 20 Viking points and 17 offensive rebounds led to 13 second chance points.
“The three things we’ve really been focusing on in practice are rebounding, defense and turnovers,” Mason said. “Hopefully for this next game, we take what we’ve been practicing and apply it to the game because it’s all mental.”
A highlight of the weekend was the play of junior forward Sweets Underwood, who averaged a double-double and is leading the Gauchos with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“We expect that from Sweets,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “Sky’s the limit [for her]. She should have a double-double every night.”
UCSB will key in on two Gaels while on the court: senior Jasmine Smith and sophomore Jackie Nared. In their first two games, the two guards averaged 14.5 points and 13 points, respectively. Nared is also averaging seven rebounds per game.
“Smith was a first team all-conference player [last year],” Mitchell said. “We’re going to have to do a great job with both of them on the perimeter.”
Last year UCSB played St. Mary’s on the road, which resulted in a 77-53 loss.
“They’re a good team and they have to be very confident in the fact that they beat the Gauchos pretty handily at their place last year,” Mitchell said. “Our kids know that they can’t see uniforms. We have to walk in here and act like we’re playing the number one team in the country.”
St. Mary’s arrives at the Thunderdome at 1-1, coming off a close victory against Montana. However, Mitchell expects nothing but a win.
“I want them to go in expecting to win,” Mitchell said. “If we do the little things, we should expect to win. That’s my mentality. If we’re playing Connecticut tomorrow, I expect to win.”
In the preseason polls, UCSB was expected to finish second in the Big West behind Cal Poly.
Tip off is set for tonight at 6.