It was a true team win for UCSB women’s basketball on Saturday afternoon when the squad knocked off UC Riverside 63-43 at the Thunderdome.
With the victory, the Gauchos improve to 7-8 and 2-2 in the Big West, while the Highlanders drop to 2-15 and a winless 0-6 in conference.
“For our kids to come back and rebound from a disappointing loss a couple nights ago … it was a great win,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “It was a total team effort.”
Junior forward Sweets Underwood controlled the offense for UC Santa Barbara, scoring the team’s first eight points. Underwood led the attack with 16 points while also contributing seven boards.
“Coach has emphasized coming out early and setting the tone,” Underwood said. “I’ve obviously been struggling the last few games, so to be able to come out here tonight and play well, it feels great.”
A 6-2 UCSB run to end the first half gave the Gauchos momentum, which UC Santa Barbara seized and used to gradually pull away.
“Any run for us is good,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t satisfied, and I just told the team that we needed to win by 20 points. I knew for our mindset going into these next two road games that we had to win by 20 for our own benefit and mindset.”
The 20-point win was the highest margin of victory for the Gauchos all year.
Senior forward Kelsey Adrian put the team on her back in the second half, scoring 13 of her 15 points after halftime. She found her touch from behind the arc, knocking down three treys.
“It’s just a mentality that we all have — that we’re going to keep shooting and the shots are going to fall,” Adrian said. “But, we weren’t just trying to shoot threes. It was getting to the basket, moving the ball around, and finding the open player.”
Sophomore guard Nicole Nesbit contributed nine points, all of which came in the first half. And then there was Emilie Johnson, who went without a field goal, but still left her mark with seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and no turnovers.
The Gauchos out-rebounded the Highlanders 45-26 and gave up only one offensive board.
“I threatened them on the day off — the one day to prepare — that we were just going to do all rebounding drills,” Mitchell said. “Maybe the reverse psychology worked on them, but we emphasize that every day.”
For a team that has struggled offensively, UC Santa Barbara looked much smoother on the attack against UCR. Sixty-three points is well above the team’s average of 52 and was its second highest total of the year. They also shot 41.3 percent from the field and tallied 18 assists (a season high), while limiting their turnovers to just nine.
The Gauchos resume play next week with two tough games on the road against Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge.