During Big West play, there has been one dominant storyline for the UCSB women’s basketball team.

The Gauchos’ downfall is inconsistent play. They start the game playing well, but begin to watch the game slip away toward the end of each first half and then completely fall apart in the second half.

Saturday at UC Davis was no exception for Santa Barbara as the team fell 82-70.

“That’s been our struggle this year, is that we do well in spurts, and then other times we don’t,” senior guard Melissa Zornig said. “We showed how we can play the first half, and then the second half we had a lot of defensive breakdowns and weren’t attacking as much on offense.”

With the loss, UCSB has lost three straight and seven of its last eight, dropping the Gauchos to 6-14 overall and 1-6 in conference, which leaves them in eighth place. The Aggies move into a three-way tie for third place, improving to 9-11 overall and 4-3 in the Big West.

With a struggling team, Head Coach Carlene Mitchell changed the starting lineup, benching two of her three seniors and instead starting three freshmen, a sophomore and Zornig. The move worked as the Gauchos jumped out to an early 20-9 lead.

“We just had to mix it up and I was going with effort,” Mitchell said. “It’s obvious what we’ve been doing so far hasn’t worked and we just wanted energy to start the game.”

However, Davis responded, picking up its defensive intensity by switching into its trapping defense and offensively taking advantage of its size down low. The Aggies stormed back to take a one-point lead at halftime.

Opening up the second half, Santa Barbara came out flat once again. Three-point shots sparked a 7-0 fun for Davis, giving the Aggies a comfortable lead. In the second half, UCD shot 41.7 percent from three-point range.

“They have a lot of weapons on their team,” Zornig said. “They have good post players inside and then a lot of them can knock down the three. That’s their game and we knew that.”

Throughout the second half, UCSB found ways to cut the lead to five or six points several times, but could never come up with the defensive stop needed to get within one possession.

“At that point, it’s more mental than anything. You can’t trade baskets, especially when you’re down,” senior guard Nicole Nesbit said. “There were a couple times where we would get a stop, we’d go down and score and then miss a box out or something like that. I know we had a couple of key mental mistakes in the second half and things like that cost you games.”

The biggest discrepancy came at the free throw line. The Aggies, the best free throw shooting team in the Big West, shot 31-36 from the charity stripe while the Gauchos did not stand up to their second place ranking in conference, shooting just 18-29 from the line.

“I’m not even going to spend the effort talking about their 36 attempts. It was our lack of knocking down the 29 attempts we had,” Mitchell said. “If you’re going to get that many attempts on the road, you have to focus. You win on the road by making layups, not turning the ball over and getting to the free throw line. We got there; we just didn’t knock them down.”

Davis’ leading scorer, junior forward Sydnee Fipps, scored 21 points for Davis, but it was sophomore forward Alyson Doherty that killed UCSB and exploited its lack of height down low. Although averaging 11.7 points per game, Doherty exploded for a game-high 23 points on 7-11 shooting, including 9-12 from the free throw line.

For Santa Barbara, Nesbit led the team with 17 points while Zornig added 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds. In addition, in her first start in conference play, freshman forward Mi’Chael Wright finished the afternoon with nine points and seven rebounds.

“Mi’Chael’s that blue-collar kid that is going to go after every rebound and that’s why we recruited her,” Mitchell said. “She stepped up tonight.”

UCSB returns home next week to take on Hawaii and Long Beach State.


A version of this article appeared on page 6 of February 3, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.

Photo by Shaminder Dhindsa of The Daily Nexus.