Despite playing one of its most impressive games in the early season, the UCSB women’s basketball team fell to a talented Washington State team 81-55.

The loss drops the Gauchos to a disappointing 0-7 to start the year, while WSU improved to 7-2.

“Our team got better tonight,” Head Coach Carlene Mitchell said. “I’m still not happy and never will be with losing, but our team got better and we have young kids that are getting better every game. There’s a lot of basketball left.”

The red hot Cougars came into the Thunderdome considerable favorites coming off a win over previously undefeated No. 8 Maryland last Saturday. A 7-0 run that included a pair of jumpers by senior guard Tia Presley got them out to a quick start with a 15-6 lead, but the Gauchos continued to hang around.

“They have players that make plays,” Mitchell said. “Their guards could play probably at the next level, I think they’ll compete in the Pac-12. They all understand their roles and it’s a blue collar mentality team.”

Behind its best shooting performance of the season, Santa Barbara was able to keep Washington State’s lead under double-digits for most of the first half. Despite outshooting the Cougars 41.9-37.8 percent heading into halftime, the Gauchos trailed 35-28 at the break.

A jumper by freshman forward Chaya Durr to start the second period capped off a 6-0 run for UCSB as it cut the lead to 35-30, but that was the closest the Gauchos would get to taking their first lead of the game as the Cougars’ offense took off from there.

“I feel like we were a team today. We’re getting better every day,” Durr said. “Our offense comes when we do a good job on defense. As long as we’re out there with hands up, talking, and getting steals, our offense will definitely come.”

WSU’s junior guard Lia Galdeira single-handedly took over the game, going on a 9-2 run by herself to push the lead to 44-32 with 16:53 remaining. The Hawaii native wasn’t done there, as she assisted or scored on 10 of her team’s 11 points during an 11-2 run midway through the half to blow the game open at 65-44.

“We would make a play or finish on one end and then give up an open three or have a lack of communication on the defensive end and you can’t do that against great teams,” Mitchell said. “You’ve got to get two or three stops in a row and we didn’t do that tonight.”

Galdeira wound up finishing the night with 28 points, six rebounds and four steals on 12-21 shooting, including 4-8 from three-point range. Presley was also efficient from beyond the arc where she knocked down 3-5 shots, ending with 17 points and five rebounds of her own.

A three-pointer in the final seconds by freshman guard Caila Hailey pushed the Cougars’ lead to 26, the largest lead all night, as the game ended with a final of 81-55.

“No one likes to lose, but you have to keep plugging away and making sure these kids believe,” Mitchell said. “You have to leave out all the outside elements that can make you get real fidgety in the process of how we’re doing it.

WSU dominated the offensive glass on the night, picking up 17 offensive rebounds to the Gauchos’ seven. The Cougars ended the game with a 45-34 rebound advantage.

The Gauchos finished the night shooting 40.7 percent from the field, their highest mark of the season, but it wasn’t nearly enough to stop a Washington St. team that shot 51.5 percent in the second half including 6-14 from downtown. Durr and senior center Clair Watkins scored season highs with 10 and 18 points, respectively, to lead UCSB’s offense.

“100 percent the effort is always there, so that’s half the battle in today’s society in dealing with 19 and 20 year-old kids,” Mitchell said. “If we didn’t have that effort and we didn’t have a healthy locker room, it would be a whole different story right now, but we have great leadership and my coaching staff’s done a great job.”

Next up for the Gauchos is a road test against San Diego State this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at Viejas Arena.