With momentum on its side and a Big West championship two games within reach, the UCSB women’s basketball team heads to the Honda Center to take on Pacific this afternoon.
Although Pacific swept the season series, the sixth-seeded Gauchos has won seven of their last ten and are currently 15-15 overall, while the fifth-seeded Tigers enter the game at 17-12.
“We all hoped to play [Pacific] because we want to get them back,” sophomore guard Melissa Zornig said. “We know that the last two times we played them, we did not play our game. We’re going to go out and fight and get the ‘W.’”
Plus, UCSB enters the game with a chip on its shoulder after Pacific knocked out the Gauchos during the first round of the Big West Tournament last year at home.
“It’s going to fire the returners up,” Zornig said. “That was really upsetting last year. The whole team was really disappointed, so we’re excited to play them.”
UCSB earned their trip to the Honda Center after a come-from-behind victory at UC Irvine, in which the Gauchos allowed the Anteaters to score just 51 points, while on the offensive end, five players tallied at least eight points.
“We have to keep our confidence up,” Zornig said. “We have to stick together as a team and keep playing how we’re playing. If we get it done on the defensive end, we’ll win.”
The Gauchos will need to maintain its tenacious league-leading defense, which allows teams 52 points per game, because the Tigers love to score. They average 68.1 points per game, second in the Big West, and feature three of the top 12 scorers in guards Kendall Rodriguez, Erica McKenzie and Gena Johnson. The three average 35.3 points per game.
“At the end of the day it’s about us and we just have to do what we do best,” senior guard Emilie Johnson said.
Pacific is also third in conference in three-point shooting, hitting 32.9 percent of its threes and averaging 6.4 treys a game.
UCSB has a threat from behind the arc too: senior forward Kelsey Adrian. Adrian ranks fifth in the Big West in three-point shooting (36.9 percent) and knocked down crucial threes in the last game against Irvine.
In both games against Pacific, UCSB faltered down the stretch, allowing the Tigers to go on large unanswered runs. The first matchup was played evenly until Pacific went on a 10-0 run to seal the game. The second game saw a terrible performance by the Gauchos. After going down early, UCSB closed the gap to single digits, but then watched Pacific mount a 18-0 run in the second half. UCSB had just 15 points in the second period.
Despite the inconsistency this season, Head Coach Carlene Mitchell has a better plan in mind that will make her team forget any loss and allow the two seniors to leave a great legacy.
“When I knew realistically we were back in the corner as far as winning the conference this year and that’s what they came in here understanding as seniors, I [told them] that there would be no bigger legacy than being the surprise team, being the Cinderella story, winning the conference tournament, and having a chance to make a run at the NCAA’s,” Mitchell said.
Tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m.