There’s a saying that goes “if something’s not working, change it.” But even that didn’t work for the UCSB women’s basketball team, which lost 67-52 Saturday afternoon to Cal Poly.
It was the first time the Mustangs swept the series against the Gauchos since Cal Poly’s entry into the Big West in the mid-1990s. UC Santa Barbara has now lost four in a row, dropping to 3-6in the Big West and 8-13 overall while Cal Poly improves to 6-3 in conference and 9-12 overall.
“When this team puts together 40 minutes, we are going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “[Right now] we bring it for 20 minutes. It’s disappointing to lose at home and you’re on national television for the first time all season.”
Mitchell made a statement, benching all five starters, trying anything to get her team to come out strong.
“When I say that you earn your starting role and that it’s a responsibility, I want them to know I’m good for my word,” Mitchell said. “The shoot around wasn’t as sharp as I would expect and we have a lot of upperclassmen in that starting lineup, so I wanted to challenge them to understand their roles as seniors, juniors, upperclassmen and starters. It’s their responsibility to make sure we’re sharp.”
Initially, it looked like it might work. UCSB took a 4-0 lead, but it would be the last lead they would see. A pair of unanswered 7-0 runs by Cal Poly left the Gauchos in a familiar hole and they trailed 30-15 at the break.
A big issue for the Gauchos during the first half was the three-point shooting of Cal Poly, who shot 50 percent from downtown in the first period.
“We were getting beat off dribble penetration, so at the end of the day, the one-on-one defense wasn’t there,” Mitchell said. “So every time you have to help, then they would kick it to a shooter.”
At halftime, red-shirt senior Kristina Santiago had just four points, although she was in foul trouble early. However, she exploded in the second half, finishing with 16 and leading all scorers.
“She’s a really smart player, she’s strong and she has a good shot,” freshman forward Jackie Luna-Castro said, who took on the brunt of guarding Santiago. “At times it was hard because if you get bad positioning, it’s hard for her not to score.”
UCSB upped their game in the second half and played the Mustangs even on the scoreboard. They even outshot the Mustangs, but never got the score within single digits.
The Gauchos tried to extend the game by fouling, but Cal Poly hit their free throws down the stretch. Sophomore guard Jonae Ervin was 9-10 from the line in the final two minutes.
“You look at the stats here and at the end of the day, the free throw line tells the story of the game,” Mitchell said. “They made 18 free throws and we made four.”
Turnovers aren’t usually an issue for UCSB, which gave the ball away 15 times. However, the Mustangs took advantage of their opportunities, outscoring the Gauchos 13-4 off turnovers.
“I will never get used to losing, and these guys will never get used to losing,” Mitchell said. “And that’s what I tell them, ‘Continue to remember how badly this feels and when it doesn’t hurt anymore, then we’re in trouble.’”
Senior guard Emilie Johnson and sophomore guard Nicole Nesbit led UC Santa Barbara with 12 points apiece, although 22 of those 24 points came in the second half.
UCSB continues play at home Thursday against Cal State Fullerton.