At just 3-7, the UCSB women’s basketball team has struggled at home this season. It will need to find the answer tonight when the team takes on conference leader Hawaii in the second of its three game home stand.

The Gauchos currently sit in fourth place in the Big West standings with a 7-5 conference and 11-13 overall mark. Hawaii holds a 9-4 league and a 13-11 overall record, which ties them for first in the Big West.

“This game’s really big, especially because we haven’t been winning our home games,” junior guard Melissa Zornig said. “It’s coming down to the wire … and to get these wins is really important for the tournament.”

The Rainbow Wahine come off an impressive 74-71 overtime victory over Pacific and will enter the Thunderdome with momentum. On the other hand, UCSB comes off a tough 65-56 loss to rival Cal Poly in which UCSB was unable to stop Cal Poly’s offense. The Mustangs shot an incredible 45.3 percent from the field, including 47.1 percent from three-point range.

“You have to be upset about the last game and have some fire from that game, but you also have to forget about it,” Zornig said. “You just have to go out there and play your game and hopefully, we’ll get the ‘W’.”

When its opponent breaks the 60 point mark, Santa Barbara is just 1-8.

Therefore, after an off game defensively versus Cal Poly, the Gauchos have certainly focused in on defense this week. Typically, defense is the team’s bread and butter as they lead the Big West in scoring defense, holding teams to 54.0 points per game.

Defensively, UCSB will key in on number five, junior forward Kamilah Martin. Martin averages a double-double, ranking third in the Big West in scoring and second in rebounding with 15.3 and 10.0 per game, respectively. She also shoots 50.6 percent from the field, good enough for third place in league.

“[Martin is] a very talented and a physical post player, who has a variety of moves on the block, so a key for us is obviously stopping her,” senior forward Sweets Underwood said. “We have a lot of different ways we’re going to guard her and we have to stick to our defensive principles.”

Playing the same position for the Gauchos, Underwood averages 11.8 points per game, tenth in the conference, and nine rounds per game, good enough for fourth in the Big West. Shooting 49.3 percent from the field, she also ranks fifth in field goal percentage.

The last time these teams met up in Hawaii, the Gauchos came away with a 51-50 win that handed the Rainbow Wahine their first home conference loss. UCSB was clutch down the stretch with junior guard Nicole Nesbit making a lay-up with 12.5 seconds remaining to give Santa Barbara a one-point lead. On the other end, the Gauchos came up with the defensive stop and earned its first come from behind victory of the season.

“That game we willed ourselves to a win,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “We made big stops and we had players that stepped up and were willing to take the big shots.”

Tipoff against Hawaii is set for 7 p.m. at the Thunderdome.

A version of this article appeared on page 10 of February 21st 2013′s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier/ Daily Nexus.