Jan. 4, 2009
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Facing UC Riverside for the first time this year, a team that both the coaches and media picked to win the Big West, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team reminded everyone who won the conference last year.
Continuing their stellar defensive showings, the Gauchos won 47-40 on Sunday at the Thunderdome, running their winning streak to a season-high three games. UCSB improves to 6-6 overall and 2-0 in the Big West. UCR falls to 5-9, 1-1.
"We measure ourselves against ourselves and I have a team that does not like being picked second and I love that," UCSB head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "We knew that this was a big game and we wanted to come out and play well."
UCSB was led by Lauren Pedersen's 21 points, which included a career-high tying five three-pointers, while Jenna Green picked up the team's first double-double this season with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Chris Spencer came off the bench to score six points with four rebounds. Jordan Franey and Sha'Rae Gibbons, making her first start of the year, each had four points.
Defensively the Gauchos allowed Riverside to shoot just 31.9 percent from the field - including a dismal 1-for-12 from beyond the three-point line - keeping their third opponent to 40 points or lower this season. No UCSB team has done that since the 2002-03 squad.
"Championship teams are teams that can win any which way," Gottlieb said. "Our calling card is always going to be our defense but Riverside is a tough team and they present a lot of match-up problems and they're so athletic across the board that if you have to win a game gritting it out, that's what I expect to do. I really thought you saw a toughness come out, that we asked of them."
The Gauchos led by as many as 13 in the first half courtesy of Spencer's three-pointer, and took a 29-18 lead into the locker room. Pedersen had 18 at the break.
The senior from Brea, Calif. has opened Big West play with a bang, scoring 37 points in the first two games. Add her five rebounds and three steals from Sunday and Pedersen has 11 rebounds and six steals in the conference's first two games this season.
"What I said before the game to the team, is that in big games, you want to feel like you're prepared and you're ready. In big games, players make plays, and that's what I was excited about," Gottlieb said about Pedersen. "She's an unbelievable shooter and an even better player, so when the shots fall it kind of takes our team to a different level."
UCSB extended its lead back to 13 early in the second half on a layup from Whitney Warren but saw the Highlanders battle back. UC Riverside cut the lead to five at 45-40 on Kemie Nkele's free throw with less than a minute left, but Jenna Green knocked down a pair of her own to ice it.
Nkele led UCR with 11 points and nine boards while Roney Friend had eight points and four rebounds.
The Gauchos travel to UC Irvine on Thursday and play at Cal State Fullerton next Saturday before returning home to host Portland State in a non-conference game.
Tickets for that game - and all remaining home games - are available by calling (805) 893-UCSB or by logging on to UCSBgauchos.com.