After an easy victory against UC Riverside last weekend, the UCSB women’s basketball team will see tougher competition when it hits the road to face Long Beach State tonight.
The Gauchos are currently 7-8 and 2-2 in conference, placing them sixth in the Big West. The 49ers sit one place below with a 7-11 overall record and 2-3 in conference.
Ranked No. 1 in the Big West defensively, the Gauchos allow opponents just less than 50 points per game. It’s what wins them games and it will certainly need to be on display tonight because Long Beach has shot 42 percent in conference matches.
“That’s something that coach has been emphasizing — defense, defense, defense,” junior forward Sweets Underwood said. “The majority of our practices are usually focused around defense.”
Long Beach has some tricks of their own on defense too.
“The thing that we haven’t seen yet that they do is they change up defenses,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “Basically every possession, we’re going to see a different defense. We’re going to see some zones, so we’re going to have to execute a little quicker.”
Like UCSB, the 49ers feature a balanced attack on offense. Three players average 9.3 points or higher. Senior forward Tipesa Moorer leads the attack with 12.6 points per game.
“[Moorer’s] a little undersized but she’s been putting up big numbers,” Mitchell said. “She’s a mismatch problem because they’re basically playing four guards and that can sometimes get us in trouble because Tilleman’s more comfortable playing post defense.”
The Gauchos will also have to keep an eye on freshman guard Alex Sanchez. Averaging 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, Sanchez is a very versatile player who can play many positions.
“They’re all very athletic and quick,” sophomore guard Melissa Zornig said. “I think as long as we play our defense and execute on the offensive end we should win the game.”
Saturday against UCR, UC Santa Barbara found their offensive stride. Offensive execution has been a weakness for the Gauchos, so the team hopes the offensive fluidity will carry with them on the road.
“I think we were finally hitting some shots,” Zornig said. “In games like that, when we come fired up, the flow of the game is a lot better and then that’s when we start hitting shots.”
Underwood especially was on fire in their last game, scoring a team-high 16 points after recently returning to the starting line-up.
“[I’m] just going in and doing all that I can to contribute to the team to get a ‘W,’” Underwood said. “[For Long Beach], I’m focusing on rebounding and the things I can control.”
Playing on the road is never easy, but Long Beach is especially great at home at 6-2.
“I know they just had a tough stretch on the road, but Long Beach is a lot better team at home,” Mitchell said. At the end of the day, if you want to win conference, you have to win road games.”
Tip-off Thursday is set for 7 p.m.