The Gauchos will say goodbye to their two seniors Emilie Johnson and Kelsey Adrian when the UCSB women’s basketball team plays its final two home games of the season this week, beginning with Cal State Northridge tonight.
“They’re going to have friends and family here,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “But we’ll try to keep it so that those two can be calm, confident, and hopefully go out of here with two wins.”
The Gauchos have struggled this season with a Big West record of 5-7 and an 11-14 overall record. However, the Matadors sit atop the conference standings at 10-3 and 16-10 overall.
One of Northridge’s Big West losses came to UCSB Jan. 21 when the Gauchos took down the Matadors in a 71-67 double overtime victory on the road.
“When you get beat at home in double overtime, it’s going to be hard to take and they’re going to be on the road and they want to come into our home gym and get a win,” Adrian said. “It’s a big weekend for Emilie and I and we don’t want to let that happen.”
Johnson and Adrian each tallied 17 points and eight boards, making huge plays down the stretch.
Northridge shot 38 free throws, which ultimately kept them in the game. Freshman guard Janae Sharpe led her team with 19 points and had her way driving through the Gaucho defense.
“We’re going to look to try and handle screen and rolls a little differently because that’s actually what hurt us,” Mitchell said. “[Sharpe] likes to get in the lane and she’ll either pull up and shoot the jumper or for her, two free throws is the same as scoring, so we have to do a better job of not fouling.”
The Matadors’ leading scorer, senior center Jasmine Erving, was not the one to hurt the Gauchos, but UCSB needs to be aware of her. Erving ranks third in the Big West in scoring with 16 points per game, second in rebounds with 8.5 per game, and third in field goal percentage, shooting 47.1 percent.
“The key to Erving is to box her out,” Adrian said. “We can’t let her get any easy points or second-chance points.”
Junior center Kirsten Tilleman will have the responsibility of guarding Erving. Tilleman, who ranks third in the Big West in rebounds with 8.4 per game, had a great game in their previous loss to Irvine with 16 points and nine rebounds.
The key in practice for UCSB this week, as always, was defense, although it was especially emphasized after giving up 72 points to Irvine. The Gauchos have the best defense in the Big West, holding teams to 51.4 points per game and 35.6 percent shooting.
Northridge, however, features the second- best defense in conference and leads the Big West in blocked shots, steals, and defensive rebounds.
“We had a hard time using our high pick and roll [last time], which the last three or four games has been very effective for us,” Mitchell said. “They want to pressure the ball and hopefully we can relive the pressure with some backdoor hits early.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome.