SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Thanks in part to a big afternoon from senior Sweets Underwood, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team was able to take down visiting Cal State Northridge, 66-55, in the Thunderdome on Saturday.
Home wins have been a rarity for the Gauchos lately, but Saturday's victory snapped a two-game skid in the Thunderdome. With the win, UCSB improves to 12-14 on the year and 8-6 in Big West Conference action. Cal State Northridge falls to 13-14 overall and 7-8 in league. The win marked the 13th straight over the Matadors.
A consistent and dominant force for the Gauchos this year, Underwood put together one of the best games of her career as she tallied 19 points to go along with a career-high 20 boards. It marked the 11th double-double of the year for the senior, who also had three assists and a steal. She made 6-of-14 from the field and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe.
Nicole Nesbit was second among the Gauchos with 11 points and a team-leading five assists. Melissa Zornig chipped in nine points. UCSB was aided greatly by its bench, which contributed 21 points in the victory.
Kept to fewer than 60 points in their last three games, the Gauchos put up their second-highest point total of the season behind their 76 points at Loyola Marymount (Dec. 5, 2012). UCSB limited the Matadors to just 14 points in the opening half – the second lowest output by an opponent this year – while tallying more than 30 points in the first stanza for just the second time this year.
Senior Angelei Aguirre opened the scoring with a jumper, spurring an 8-0 Gaucho run that gave UCSB a lead that would never be relinquished. Midway through the first half, the Gauchos were able keep the Matador offense on ice as Northridge faced a five-minute scoring drought. UCSB was able to build its lead to as many as 20 points with 1:02 to go when Jackie Luna-Castro calmly hit a pair of free-throws. The Gauchos maintained the spread, heading into the locker rooms up, 34-14.
Cal State Northridge opened the second half with a 14-8 run to cut its deficit to 42-31 with 12:22 left to play. The Gauchos were able to keep the Matadors at bay, and with five minutes to go in the game, they went on a five-point run in the matter of a minute to push their lead back out to 18 at 56-38.
Hoping to get back into the game, the Matadors hit three three-pointers to cut the Gaucho lead to 10 with 2:32 to play. UCSB was not phased, however, and sunk seven of eight free-throw attempts in the final 1:51 of the game to close the door on Northridge with the 66-55 win.
Offensively, the Gauchos benefited from 43.4% shooting (23-of-53) from the field and 90% shooting (18-of-20) from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, they limited Northridge to just 37.5% (21-of-56) from the field and 7-of-22 (31.8%) from the three-point range. They out-rebounded the Matadors, 38-30, but both teams were plagued with turnovers, recording 22 apiece.
Seventeen points were scored by Northridge's Haley White, who came off the bench and made 6-of-11 attempts from the field while hitting 4-of-5 attempts from beyond the arc. Violet Alama had 14 points for the Matadors.
"There are just certain teams you match up well with," head coach Carlene Mitchell said. "Northridge – they do a great job and they have won some big games – but for whatever reason, we tend to step-up when it comes time to play them."
UCSB will hit the road next week to face Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 5:30 p.m. and UC Riverside on Saturday, March 2 at 1 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live on UCSBgauchos.com and BigWest.tv. Saturday's game can be heard live in Santa Barbara on KZSB 1290 AM, the Santa Barbara News-Press radio station.
The Gauchos' next home game against Long Beach State on March 7 has been moved up an hour and will now begin at 3 pm in the Thunderdome.