Estef Zuniga / Daily Nexus

For the fifth time during conference play, the UCSB women’s basketball team split their games this past week, falling to Long Beach State 53-59 on Thursday before beating Cal State Northridge 65-55 on Saturday.

With the split, the Gauchos (10-14, 5-6) moved into fourth place in the Big West conference, jumping over Cal State Northridge (CSUN) in the process. 

During Wednesday’s practice, Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson and the coaching staff emphasized the need to take care of the ball against the tenacious Long Beach State (LBSU) defense. While the 49ers are undersized, they pester opponents with their ¾ court press, forcing 21.3 turnovers per game.

On Thursday, however, turnovers would prove to be the Achilles’ heel for the ‘Chos — who turned the ball over 23 times on the night.

“They have tremendous athletes on the ball and in the passing lanes,” Henrickson said about LBSU.

In a low-scoring, defensive slugfest, those turnovers would prove to be the difference. LBSU scored 24 points off of turnovers, and scored 20 fastbreak points on the night. In comparison, UCSB did not score a single point in transition in the entire game.

Still, the Gauchos hung around for most of the night — thanks in large part to the continued dominance of freshman forward-center Ila Lane. In one of her more efficient performances of the season, Lane finished the game with 18 points on 87.5% shooting, while also grabbing 12 rebounds for yet another double-double.

Outside of Lane, however, UCSB struggled to create offense for much of the night. Only one other player — senior guard Coco Miller — scored in double figures on the night for Santa Barbara, and she did so on 4-16 shooting from the floor.

For most of the night, the Gauchos’ offensive struggles were nothing but a minor inconvenience, especially with the ‘Chos’ defense thriving. After three quarters, UCSB had held LBSU to merely 36 points, with Long Beach turning the ball over 14 times in the first three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, however, things fell apart for the team. Long Beach proceeded to score 23 points on 70% shooting; with UCSB’s offense still nowhere to be found, the Gauchos were unable to keep pace.

Junior guard Shanaijah Davison and sophomore guard Justina King led the way for Long Beach on the night, with the duo finishing with 19 points and 17 points, respectively.

On Saturday, however, UCSB used a 23-point fourth quarter of its own to knock off Cal State Northridge on the road.

Heading into the matchup, all eyes were on the paint battle between Lane and redshirt senior De’Jionae Calloway — who entered the game averaging 14.3 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game.

After 40 minutes of play, Lane emerged the clear winner from that individual battle, finishing the game with 16 points and 17 rebounds. Meanwhile, Calloway struggled for much of the night, finishing with only 4 points on 2-12 shooting for the night.

Senior guard Tal Sahar also turned in one of her best performances of the season, chipping in 18 points off the bench for UCSB. In the fourth quarter in particular, Sahar left her stamp on the game, drilling three 3-pointers and shooting 75% from behind the arc in the quarter.

In addition, Miller did an excellent job of facilitating the offense all night; while she struggled from the field, she finished the game with 8 assists to lead the team.

For the Matadors, second-year guard Jordyn Jackson was the high-scorer on the night with 16 points — the only CSUN player to score double figures on the night. 

With a logjam in the middle of the Big West standings, every game matters to the Gauchos from now on. This week, UCSB will return home to take on CSUN once again on Thursday before hosting UC Riverside on Saturday in a revenge game.

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