The UCSB women’s basketball team experienced firsthand why Baylor is the No. 1 team in the nation this past Sunday when the Lady Bears handed the Gauchos an 81-40 defeat in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
With the win, Baylor continues its campaign for a perfect record, improving to 35-0 overall on the season. The Gauchos finish their year at 17-16 overall.
“Baylor is so good,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “They have all the elements in place to win a championship. You have no idea the size, speed, and athleticism of that team until you play them.”
Baylor asserted its dominance from the opening tip by quickly jumping out to a 12-0 lead. Ending the half on an 11-2 run, Baylor took a dominant 46-16 halftime lead and coasted through the second half.
“We didn’t convert [our open shots], which put us in a hole,” senior guard Emilie Johnson said. “It’s hard to play a perfect game, but [when] we put together a complete game, we’re a team to be reckoned with.”
Baylor junior center Brittney Griner finished with 14 points in 22 minutes, her 75th consecutive game in double figures.
“I think Tilleman did an amazing job on [Griner], but she’s 6’8’’ and she’s played with the USA team,” Mitchell said. “I give our kids credit because she had to work hard for her points.”
UCSB’s defensive game plan was to make Baylor’s role players win the game. Five players for the Lady Bears were in double figures and, as a team, it shot a phenomenal 58.7%.
“The role players stepped up,” Johnson said. “When they’re shooting threes and have 6’8’’ Brittney Griner, they’re absolutely the best team in the nation.”
Due to the team’s height advantage Baylor dominated the paint, outscoring the Gauchos 42-18. Junior forward Destiny Williams finished with 12 points, playing a crucial role in gaining the big first half lead. Junior forward Brooklyn Pope finished with 13 points and seven boards, making her impact in the second half.
As one of the best defensive teams in the nation, holding opponents to just 30.7 percent shooting, Baylor pressured UCSB’s offense. Although UCSB committed a bearable 16 turnovers, the Bears scored 24 points off those giveaways. The Gauchos also struggled to find any offensive rhythm, suffering six shot clock violations, and failed to hit many open shots. UCSB shot 26.7 percent from the field.
“They’re long and athletic,” Mitchell said. “We’ve faced teams that our guards have had a hard time getting their shots off, but you can’t emulate the speed and athleticism of Baylor.”
In her final game as a Gaucho, Johnson led the Gauchos offensively with 10 points. Johnson finished in double figures in 14 of the last 17 games.
“I wish I had hit more shots, but I just tried to help my team in any way I could,” Johnson said.
Tilleman, who was matched up with Griner, also had a solid performance, tallying eight points and eight boards. Off the bench for UCSB, freshman center Jackie Luna-Castro also scored eight, a career high.
“Tilleman played with a lot of confidence and was knocking down that 15 foot jumper,” Mitchell said. “It makes me excited as to what will happen next season with her leading the team.”