The UCSB women’s basketball team takes a break from conference play tonight to take on USC, the strongest team on the schedule for this year.
The Gauchos enter the game at 8-11 overall and 3-5 in the Big West, while the Trojans are 10-9 and 5-4 in the Pac-12 conference.
Both teams are looking for a win to break a losing streak. USC has lost three in a row, but shouldn’t be underestimated, as they’ve already beaten great teams such as Cal and UCLA this season. UC Santa Barbara lost two critical Big West contests last week at home.
“This one is going to be an interesting test,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “We have one day and it’s … game time. This will be a great mental test for our team — to see if we’re going to continue to fight because it’d be real easy to lie down after two home losses.”
The Trojans will certainly provide that test, especially offensively. Four players average 11 points per game or higher. In addition, USC also has four players shooting 40 percent or better from three-point range, a spot on the court where opponents have been successful against the Gauchos.
“They’re challenging and we all know that,” Mitchell said. “[They have] Kodak All-Americans and McDonald’s All-Americans, so it’ll take us to a place we probably haven’t been yet as far as the talent level.”
UCSB will continue to rely on their defense to keep them in games, only giving up 50.7 points per game, the best in the Big West. But to have a chance to win the game, the Gauchos will have to find a way to score. The Trojans average 65 points per game, compared to UCSB’s 52.6.
“We’ll guard them hopefully a little tighter than anyone else has this year,” Mitchell said. “And we’ll have to do a good job on the rebounds.”
Rebounding will definitely be important because UCSB will be at a height disadvantage. While the Gauchos have two of the best rebounders in the Big West in junior center Kirsten Tilleman and junior forward Sweets Underwood, every member of the team is going to have to find a body and box out.
“We know what we can do and we have to continue to do that well,” Mitchell said. “[It’s going to take] an ‘A’ game for us to have a chance to win.”
Sophomore guard Nicole Nesbit currently leads UC Santa Barbara in scoring, averaging 9.3 points while coming off the bench. Underwood also contributes 8.8 per game and senior guard Emilie Johnson, who struggled against Pacific last Saturday, averages 8.3.
Tip-off is set for tonight at 7 p.m. at the Galen Center.