Irvine, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara limited Cal State Northridge to just 31 points in a convincing victory in the Big West Quarterfinals at the Bren Events Center on Wednesday night. The Gauchos showed that they benefited from their first round bye by easily advancing to the Big West Tournament Semifinals with the 45-31 win over CSUN.
"We will enjoy this victory for tonight," senior Kirsten Tilleman said in her initial thoughts on the win. "But we know we have a lot more work to do in this tournament."
With the victory, UCSB has now gone 3-0 against the Matadors this season. Going into the matchup, the Gauchos were the only team to keep the Matadors under 40 points, and they were able to do it for a second time by limiting CSUN to just 31 points off a dismal 24% shooting from the field.
Even though the Gauchos came into the game as defending Big West Champs, they showed that they were still prone to postseason nerves. After recording a steal on the Matadors' opening possession, Sweets Underwood miss fired the ball out of bounds on her pass intended for Nicole Nesbit with no defenders in sight. But as they have done all season, the Gauchos shook off the bad play and looked ahead to capitalize on their future opportunities.
Nesbit gladly spearheaded this approach for her team in the first half. The junior guard had eight of her 12 total points in the first half, including consecutive jump shots to keep CSUN at bay early on. After sinking those buckets, Nesbit had the Gauchos up 12-5 with 11:21 to play in the first half.
Sweets Underwood led the floor with 16 points and 9 rebounds. Underwood was kept quiet in the first half, only recording six points, but she was able to help her team close the game out midway through the second.
Underwood scored eight straight points for UCSB starting with 9:08 left to play. After knocking down four free throws and a jumper, Underwood capped off the stretch with a layup to give UCSB their largest lead of the night at 41-25.
The Gauchos didn't allow any Matador to score in double-digits. Violet Alama led CSUN with nine points, shooting 3-6 from the field.
The Matadors came into the game as the fourth best three-point shooting team in the conference with a collective 30.5% from beyond the arc, but they were shutout from their long range shots by the Gaucho defense, going 0-12. UCSB is the only team this season to not allow a single three-pointer to fall for CSUN.
UCSB played the game in the same venue where they started their Big West Championship a year ago. While that coincidence may have had some of the fans feeling nostalgic, the team is solely focused on what's happening now.
"What we started last season [at UC Irvine] was great," Tilleman said. "But now we're just focused on playing for another championship."
To get back to the championship game, UCSB will have to go through a team they have not beaten the past two seasons, Cal Poly. The Mustangs are the second seeded team in the Big West and will make their tournament debut in semifinals on Friday, as they earned byes through the first two rounds. Tipoff is slated for 2:30pm at the Honda Center. The game can be heard on AM 1290, UCSBgauchos.com and viewed on BigWest.tv.