UCSB might be heading to paradise for Thanksgiving break, but this trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico won’t be about sunbathing for the women’s basketball team as they play some tough competition in the 2012 Hardwood Tournament of Hope, beginning with Oregon State today.

“I’m very excited,” junior guard Nicole Nesbit said. “We took one trip to New York my freshman year, which was awesome. Of course, we were there for business, but we got to see a show and experience the city a bit. I’m really excited to go to Mexico. I’ve never been.”

While the Beavers are a part of the powerful Pac-12, this game is not out of reach for the Gauchos. Both teams enter the game with a 1-1 overall mark and in its most recent contest, Oregon St. fell to Cal Poly 72-62.

Santa Barbara, on the other hand, enters the game with momentum following a 43-41 victory over New Mexico State. Despite taking a 12-point lead into the second half, the Gauchos found themselves up just two with five seconds remaining. Nevertheless, UCSB was able to close out the win.

“We’ll take away closing games out when it’s really close,” Nesbit said. “At this point last season, we probably wouldn’t have been able to do that.”

The greatest challenge for the Gauchos against the Beavers may turn out to be something UCSB has no control over: height. Oregon St. is a big team; the average height of its starting lineup is 6’0’’ compared to Santa Barbara’s 5’9’’.

As a result, UCSB will need to keep Oregon St. out of the paint. The Beavers average 36 points in the paint per game.

“I think we’re undersized just about every game,” Mitchell said. “Our defensive philosophy remains the same. The only way you can handle 6’4’’ is to full front them and pressure the ball.”

Rebounding will be another focus point for UCSB as Oregon St. averages an incredible 50 rebounds per game.

“[We have to] box them out … that’s the main thing,” senior forward Sweets Underwood said. “We have to really put a body on them, drive them back and secure each and every rebound.”

Defensively, the Gauchos will keep a close eye on Oregon St. sharpshooter Alyssa Martin. The junior guard averages 18 points per game, shooting 44.4 percent from the field. She shoots an even higher percentage from behind the arc at 45.5 percent and has solidified herself as one of the best three-point shooters in the team’s history, ranking sixth all time in threes with 100.

“She can shoot the three or can put it on the floor,” Mitchell said. “She finds a variety of ways to score, which for us, is probably going to be a matchup problem.”

On the offensive end, UCSB will need to improve its execution against a zone, especially since the Beavers are known for their two-three zone. In UCSB’s last game against New Mexico St., the Gauchos were outscored 27-17 in the second half when the Aggies switched to a zone.

“We know that’s probably our biggest weakness right now as a team,” Nesbit said. “We need to execute, not be afraid of the zone, be patient and attack.”

Depending on today’s result, the Gauchos will face off against either Mississippi State or Winthrop tomorrow. Other teams in the tournament include Louisville, University of Central Florida, Gonzaga and Missouri State University.

Tip-off against Oregon State is set for 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.


A version of this article appeared on page 6 of November 20th, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.