The UCSB women’s basketball team will look to win its first home opener since the 2008-09 season when the team travels to UNLV tonight.
“[Our goal is] to go out there and play hard and play to the best of our ability,” senior guard Angelei Aguirre said. “We know we have things to tighten up [for] UNLV, but I know we’re going do everything we can to get a win.”
The Gauchos won their first game of the season 52-39 in an exhibition match against Vanguard thanks to a quick start in which Santa Barbara jumped out to a 15-0 lead.
Junior guard Nicole Nesbit led the team offensively with 17 points while senior forward Sweets Underwood posted a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds. Junior guard Melissa Zornig also tallied nine points and six assists.
“I saw a lot of positive things [against Vanguard],” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “At the end of the day, we held them to 39 points and we had tons of defensive mistakes, but a lot of it was just communication. That’s easy to fix.”
UCSB outrebounded Vanguard 44-35. Rebounding will be a key statistic today, as UNLV has seven players listed at over 6’0’’.
“We did a lot of rebounding drills today because we’re not the tallest or most physical team, so we have to pay attention to make sure we’re blocking out every time and limiting their second chance opportunities,” Mitchell said.
Overall, the Gauchos are just 9-27 against the Rebels. Last year when these two teams met up, UCSB lost 46-44 on a buzzer beater. While the last second shot stung for the Gauchos, it was rebounding that cost them the game. UNLV outrebounded Santa Barbara by 18 (45-27) and UCSB gave up 19 offensive boards.
Zornig scored 13 points in last year’s match up while Nesbit tallied 11. UCSB needs repeat performances from its point guards in order to win.
“We need both of them to score,” Mitchell said. “They’re probably our best three-point shooters, so they have to find a balance, what’s a good shot and when to get people involved and then also continue to look for their own shot.”
UNLV played its first game of the year Monday in an exhibition versus Dixie State. In the 68-53 victory, the Rebels had three players in double figures. Senior guard Kelli Thompson led the Rebels with 19 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Danielle Miller and sophomore forward Alana Cesarz each added 13 and 11 points, respectively.
“They have three or four seniors, so they’re probably a lot like us early in the year,” Mitchell said. “You’re trying to find your identity. We always do what we have to do on the defensive end of things. We know we’ll have to stop their transition and limit their second chance points.”
Staying calm on offense will be a big key for UCSB as well. The Rebels like to pressure the ball and force turnovers. Against Dixie State, UNLV forced 24 total turnovers and tallied 16 steals.
Against Vanguard, UCSB committed 18 turnovers, a number that may prove too high against an athletic UNLV team.
“[The key offensively will be] taking care of the ball under pressure,” Aguirre said. “[We have to] be calm because they’re really athletic and they’re going to pressure us.”
As an athletic team, expect UNLV to push the ball and get out in transition. The Gauchos will need to improve on last game’s transition defense and limit the Rebels’ point total.
“They’re very athletic,” Mitchell said. “If we can keep them, like we did last year, in the 30s and 40s [and] emphasize our transition defense, we should have a chance to win.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center.