Akilah Jennings shoots a layup and draws a foul. Stephen Manga/Daily Nexus

The UCSB women’s basketball team will host Seattle University this Friday for the Gauchos’ first home game of the season.

Following Tuesday night’s 68-63 loss on the road against Santa Clara, Santa Barbara is 1-1 overall.

Seattle has started the season with losses in its first two games after consecutive home defeats versus Idaho State and Hawaii, leaving the Redhawks at 0-2 and eager for their first win.
Friday night’s matchup includes a bit of history between Santa Barbara and Seattle.

Almost exactly one year ago, on Nov. 18, UCSB visited the Redhawks in Seattle.

Heading into last year’s game, the Gauchos and Redhawks had split four previous meetings since 2010. The Redhawks recorded a 58-53 victory over the Gauchos last season.

An interesting aspect of Friday’s matchup between Santa Barbara and Seattle is that redshirt sophomore Tal Sahar used to play for Seattle prior to transferring to UCSB last season.

As a member of the Redhawks, Sahar averaged 10.2 points as a freshman while also shooting 38 percent from a three-point range.
Sahar, who sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules, has brought the Gauchos an increased shooting ability and length on the perimeter.

In spite of the intangibles she possesses, Sahar hasn’t had much of an impact in the team’s two games.

She has yet to score a point and has gone 0-for-3 from the field and 0-2 from behind the three-point line in each contest.

While Sahar has slowed down considerably in terms of production following 14 points in her debut in the Gauchos’ exhibition win over CSU East Bay, the 5’11” guard is understandably getting accustomed after not playing a single game last season.

Perhaps Sahar will get into more of a rhythm facing her old team.

For Santa Barbara, its turnover woes have continued.

While it is early in the season and the team will likely tighten up its offense as it develops more chemistry, the Gauchos turned the ball over 21 times Tuesday night against Santa Clara.

Many of these turnovers can be attributed to Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson’s decision to start two true freshmen, Danae Miller and Sarah Bates, and Santa Clara managed to take advantage of the young guards’ inexperience at the collegiate level.

While redshirt senior forward Drew Edelman scored a game-high 23 points on 50 percent shooting, the Gauchos will need to get more contributions from their role players if they wish to win games this season.

One player the Gauchos are hoping will emerge soon is redshirt junior guard Sarah Porter.

In the team’s first two games, she shot a combined 8-for-19 from the field and has really been missed from beyond the arc, where she has gone 4-for-12. Notably, after playing 32 minutes in UCSB’s season opener, Porter only played 15 minutes in the team’s loss to Santa Clara.

No other Gaucho reached double-digit scoring versus Santa Clara, allowing defenses to focus primarily on containing Edelman in the post.

UCSB definitely has the talent to disrupt defenses, with plenty of shooting ability, but perhaps Henrickson will have to stress ball movement to find open shots on kick-outs from Edelman.
Santa Barbara has so far shot 45.7 percent from downtown this season, so it seems it will only be a matter of getting more opportunities from three-point land in order to generate offense.

Facing Seattle may be the remedy the Gauchos are looking for, as the Redhawks have allowed opponents to score at least 73 points in both of their losses.

Seattle is coming off a season in which it went 15-18 overall and 10-4 in Western Athletic Conference (WAC) play.

The Redhawks finished tied for second in the WAC and made it to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, where they lost their first-round game to Wyoming.

In her second season, Seattle Head Coach Suzy Barcomb is looking to improve even in the face of losing three of her starters from last season.

Barcomb seems to have the experience and knowledge to make her capable of leading this year’s Seattle team back into postseason play.
In her total 18 seasons of coaching, Barcomb has a win percentage of .640, holding a record of 320-180 overall.

Increasing the likelihood of sustaining such success definitely becomes more plausible with a player like Alexis Montgomery.

The redshirt senior two-guard is currently the team’s leading scorer at 23.5 points per game.

Also making an impact is the reigning WAC Freshman of the Year recipient, sophomore guard Kamira Sanders, whose 13.5 PPG ranks second on the team.
Friday’s home opener will tip off at 7 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Thunderdome.

A version of this story appeared on p. 9 of the Nov. 16, 2017, edition of the Daily Nexus.