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The UCSB women’s basketball team returns to the Thunderdome this week for a two-game homestand. The Gauchos will be taking on the San Jose State Spartans on Friday and then hosting the USC Trojans on Monday.

UCSB comes into the weekend with a 1-1 record, fresh off the heels of a 64-43 loss against St. Marys on Friday. 

Freshman point guard Johnni Gonzalez was the only Gaucho that reached double figures in the loss, which was the silver lining in an all-around disappointing performance. The ‘Chos finished with shooting splits of 26.5/13/57.1 and actually had more turnovers (10) than assists (9). 

This was a complete switch-up from the season opener where UCSB defeated Utah Valley 59-51. In that game, junior guard Danae Miller shot a perfect 5-of-5 from the 3-point line en route to a game-high 24 points. Freshman center Ila Lane also dropped in 15 points to go along with 6 rebounds in her freshman debut.

The question is: Which team will show up this weekend?

San Jose State University (SJSU) gives the Gauchos a great opportunity to get their offense back on track. The Spartans have given up around 82.75 points per game, and opponents have shot 43% from the field against them. 

The key to victory for UCSB will be taking advantage of SJSU’s lack of a strong interior presence. San Jose is losing the cumulative rebounding battle 129-104 over its first three games. Although the Gauchos are missing one of their best centers in Natalia Bruening, this will be a great opportunity for Ila Lane to continue to establish her presence in the paint.

SJSU mainly runs a two-woman operation on offense, with the point guard-forward duo of Ayzhiana Basallo and Tyra Whitehead doing the bulk of the scoring. They currently are averaging a team-leading 21.3 and 17.3 points respectively. Danae Miller will most likely be tasked with stopping Basallo, who does most of her work on the perimeter, while it will take a team effort to slow down Whitehead in the post.

If the Gauchos are able to slow these two down, they should be in perfect position to pick up their second win of the season.

Looking ahead to Monday’s matchup, UCSB will have its work cut out when the undefeated Trojans come to town.

USC offers up a completely different challenge than the Spartans as they feature an extremely stingy defense, only giving up an average of 51 points per game so far. The Trojans haven’t shot well at all from the field; however, they have dominated their opponents on the board, producing second-chance opportunities that help offset their poor shooting. 

One glaring weakness that the Gauchos will have to take advantage of is USC’s propensity to turn the ball over. The Trojans are averaging a whopping 16 turnovers per game, and it will be crucial for UCSB to force errors and earn fast-break opportunities because of how difficult it is to score when USC has its half-court defense set.

The Trojans have an extremely balanced offense composed of three double-digit scorers. Instead of prioritizing individual defense and matchups, the Gauchos will have to communicate and defend as a unit in order to get stops on Monday.

The pivotal storyline for UCSB this weekend will be how Danae Miller responds after an uncanny poor shooting night in her last game. With the emergence of Johnni Gonzalez as the main distributor on the floor, Miller has been given more freedom to produce and take shots. If she is able to get back on track, then the Gauchos have a great chance to win at least one of their two games coming up.

UCSB faces off against SJSU at 7 p.m. on Friday and plays USC at 7 p.m. on Monday. Both games will take place at home in the Thunderdome.

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