Saturday’s 83-53 loss to UC Riverside was a reminder that the UCSB women’s basketball team is still a work in progress as the Gauchos had their three-game winning streak ended. After nearly allowing a comeback in its Big West opener versus Cal Poly on Thursday, Santa Barbara’s inconsistencies on defense pitted itself against a high-powered Highlanders’ offense that was nearly impossible to stop.
“Defensively, we were terrible.” Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “We didn’t turn them over, and we had turnovers. We got sloppy with how we were catching the ball; they catch it standing still and don’t know they slide both of them. Those are your feet!”
Swaying Henrickson’s frustrated postgame response was the Gauchos’ slew of traveling violations which primarily resulted in their 25 turnovers on the evening. For the sixth consecutive game, UCSB finished with 20-plus turnovers as Riverside outscored Santa Barbara 29-10 in points off turnovers.
UCSB’s miscues helped ignite the scoring onslaught of Highlanders’ potent guard Brittany Crain. The senior finished with a season-high 33 points on 13-24 shooting from the field, 2-6 from three-point range. It was the 10th career 30-point game for the reigning Big West Player of the Year.
After having its streak ended, UCSB owns a 4-12 overall and 1-1 conference record. UCR, alongside UC Davis, remains one of the final two teams with an undefeated conference record at 2-0 and improved to 9-7 overall on the season.
While Crain torched the Gauchos for a season-high in points, she was also supported by the excellent play of backcourt colleague senior guard Annelise Ito and redshirt junior forward Réjane Verin in the paint. The trio set a season-high in scoring as well with a combined total of 66 points. Ito nearly tallied her third double-double of the season with 17 points and nine rebounds to go with four assists and three steals. Most notably, Verin fell not too far of her first career triple-double with 16 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds to cap off an 8-11 shooting effort.
The two helped set the tone early, scoring six of the team’s points in its 8-0 run to open the first quarter. UCR quickly took advantage of its size down low which eventually prompted the subbing in of junior center Je Zhé Newton for the Gauchos.
As Newton’s size helped slow down the Highlanders’ attack in the paint, UCSB gradually trimmed its deficit behind the scoring of junior point guard Onome Jemerigbe and sophomore guard Makala Roper. Jemerigbe scored seven of her 10 points in the quarter while Roper notched five, bringing the Gauchos within one at 19-20 with a three-pointer. A make at the free-throw line by Newton tied the score at 20-20 to end the first period with the Gauchos shooting over 50 percent.
Although, Newton possessed the size advantage in the paint, she could not convert on what should have been relatively easy layups. She registered 10 points on 3-6 shooting and was 4-11 at the free-throw line in 19 minutes of play. While Newton did have a late start to the season due to injury, the opportunity to become UCSB’s starting center await but she has underperformed when given the playing time.
“Is she an option to start? No,” Henrickson said. “She’s got to give us some more. There just should be more improvement, that’s my frustration. It’s not like we don’t try to throw it to her, we try to, and we’ll continue to try to. We have to have somebody down there.”
In addition to UCSB’s absence of offense in the post, its shot attempts from mid-range and behind the three-point line would not fall either as Santa Barbara scored just five points in the second quarter. The Highlanders scored 22 points in the quarter with just one field goal and free-throw not being by a member of their “Big 3” to enter halftime with a 42-25 lead.
“They [UCR] screen and move, and run their offense high,” Henrickson said. “They’re a rhythm—pass, catch, swing it and they score pretty quick. They adjusted; when we got in them, they drove. When we didn’t, they just threw the ball over our head.”
In spite of facing a near 20-point deficit, UCSB’s effort to start off the third quarter expressed signs of a team that believed it could come back. Senior guard Jasmine Ware led the Gauchos’ attempt, scoring 12 of her team-high 14 points off the bench as she fell just shy of a double-double with eight rebounds. Yet, her effort alone could not prevent Santa Barbara from trailing 42-63, entering the fourth quarter. Sophomore forward Taylor Farris made her first start of the season, but concluded the game 0-2 from the field with zero points.
UCR continued its dominance in the fourth quarter, specifically from behind the perimeter. The Highlanders drained three-straight threes during the quarter, with Crain making two back-to-back. She helped Riverside seal its 30-point victory with 15 points in the final quarter.
UCSB will search for its first road victory of the season in its first conference away game against Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, Jan. 14th. The Gauchos will continue their road trip at Cal State Northridge on Saturday, Jan. 16th.