Finally the shots went down. A tremendous second half by the UCSB women’s basketball team resulted in a 52-39 victory against Cal State Fullerton.
The much needed victory was the 39th consecutive win against Cal State Fullerton (9-14 overall, 2-9 Big West) but more importantly snapped a three game losing streak for the Gauchos (9-13 overall, 4-6 Big West).
“We’re excited to walk off the court with a win,” senior guard Emilie Johnson said. “Streak or no streak, we needed to win this game.”
Despite starting the game off slow and going down 19-16 at halftime, UC Santa Barbara opened up the second half on a 12-2 run and lit it up from the field, shooting 75 percent.
“With a shooter’s mentality, you have to have a short term memory,” Johnson said. “You can’t think about your last shot.”
While always active on the defensive end, junior center Kirsten Tilleman was especially aggressive on the offensive end. She finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, both team highs.
“It’s been a while since I’ve felt that on offense,” Tilleman said. “As a team we’ve been struggling to hit shots and I think it was the team mentality that we were going to get those connections to get the ball through the hoop.”
The entire offense looked smooth in the second half and many Gauchos found their stride, including Johnson, who tallied 11 points and four assists.
“It felt great to have a complete team effort,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “It was nice to see Emilie play with a little bounce in her step and Tilleman always does what Tilleman does. But probably the key to the game was Angelei Aguirre, who made big plays and was critical for us making the high low passes.”
UCSB’s post presence was much more apparent, as the team outrebounded the Titans 38-27 and outscored them 26-8 in the paint.
“We understand that if you can establish your inside presence early, then that will make the basket look a lot bigger” Mitchell said. “The shooter doesn’t feel as much pressure to have to knock down jumpers. Tilleman, Sweets, [Angelei], and even Kelsey mixed it up inside tonight.”
Holding Fullerton to 39 points and 28.8 percent shooting, the Gaucho defense was certainly up to par. UCSB has the best scoring defense in the conference.
“We know Fullerton’s a great team, so we weren’t taking them lightly at all,” Johnson said. “They could go on a run at any time, so we had to stick with what we do best, which is defense, and we were glad to put it together on the offensive end.”
That defense held the Titan’s leading scorer, senior guard Megan Ricahrdson, who usually averages almost 17 points per game, to just eight points on the evening.
“We sent different bodies on her,” Mitchell said. “We started with Destini on her because she did a great job the first time around and then Angelei was a little stronger and bigger. Anytime she curled, we switched it and let our post player beat her up.”
UCSB will find out if they can make it two in a row Saturday, when the Gauchos play a non-conference game against CSU Bakersfield (2-5 against Big West teams).
“I think what we haven’t done in a while is put two games back to back,” Johnson said. “We want to win two games in a row and we’re excited to play for something bigger than the game of basketball, which is our pink game supporting breast cancer.”
Tip-off for the Pink Zone game is set for 2 p.m.