One team was going to break its losing streak.
With a dominating 58-43 performance over UC Davis, the UCSB women’s basketball team snapped a two-game skid and won its first game at home in its last six appearances.
The Gauchos improved to 6-10 overall and 2-2 in the Big West while the Aggies lost their fifth consecutive game, dropping to 5-9 overall and 0-3 in conference.
“I’m excited for our team and for our fans for us to finally to put together a good 37 minutes,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “We were very disciplined on the defensive end and we were playing a potent team in Davis.”
Leading Santa Barbara to victory was the play of junior guard Melissa Zornig, who tallied a career-high 24 points on 8-15 shooting, including 5-9 from behind the arc.
“My teammates attacked and found the openings and kicked out,” Zornig said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit this season, so it felt good to hit some shots.”
After struggling on both ends of the floor against Pacific Thursday, UCSB found its stride, never trailing in the game. UCSB took a quick 9-2 lead after a 7-0 run.
“I think after the bad loss against Pacific we knew we had to come with some energy,” senior guard Angelei Aguirre said. “We had to come out with intensity if we were going to win this game because Davis is a very good team.”
Defensively, the Gauchos held the Aggies to 11 points on 13 percent shooting in the first half. Davis’ halftime total will go down in UCSB record books as the fourth-fewest points scored by an opponent in a half.
“It’s communication and discipline,” Mitchell said. “We understand that they run a system where there are a lot of backdoor hits and we took switches one through five.”
As basketball is known for being a game of runs, Davis tried to narrow the gap to open the second half, using an 8-0 run to cut UCSB’s lead down to 10. However, the Gauchos responded with a 12-3 run of their own.
The Aggies didn’t quit, though, using a 9-0 run to make the difference just 10 again with 5:24 to go, but Santa Barbara once again found an answer, sinking eight of its 10 free throw shots in the final two minutes.
“I think we got together and knew we weren’t going to lose the game,” Aguirre said. “We buckled down, held each other accountable and got stops when we needed them.”
On the offensive end, UCSB moved the ball quickly, passing through Davis’ infamous trapping defense. The Gauchos dished out 17 assists on its 20 field goal attempts and shot 45.5 percent from the field. Zornig and junior guard Nicole Nesbit tied for a team-high five assists.
The 20 field goals marks the second-most for UCSB this season.
“On the offensive side, I was extremely pleased with how we played,” Mitchell said. “The overall effort was there. I think by scoring 58 (points), we’re showing on the offensive end what we can do, whereas you might not have seen that until the last five games last year.”
Zornig was the star for Santa Barbara offensively, but UCSB had many players contiribute in the victory. Aguirre scored nine points and grabbed eight rebounds and senior center Kirsten Tilleman tallied nine boards and a team-high two steals.
“What [Tilleman] does for our team and the value she presents on both ends of the court, it’s never going to show up on the stat sheet — toughness, the ability to get key rebounds, and taking charges every game,” Mitchell said.
While the Aggies lead the Big West in triples made per game with 7.1, Davis struggled from behind the arc, shooting 4-23.
“A three for them is the same as a lay-up for most teams, so the game plan was to switch one through five,” Mitchell said. “Someone like Tilleman, Lei or Sweets was able to guard their point guard at times and did a great job, so it was about making them put it on the floor and we had great rotation on the weak side.”
UCSB’s next game will be next Saturday when the team takes on Cal Poly.
A version of this article appeared on page 9 of January 14th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.