UCSB, which has played just one women’s basketball game the last four weeks, will get a big challenge during this weekend’s return to the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos will face defending Big West Conference champion UC Davis today and Saturday at 4 p.m.
“They return just about everybody from last year,” UCSB coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “They’re big and they’re physical — they’re physical on the perimeter, as well. And they can score it.
“They have more guys now who can shoot the three and put the ball on the floor.”
The game could develop into a long-range shooting contest. The Gauchos (2-7, 2-3 Big West) rank 16th in the nation in threes per game (9.3) and 27th in three-point percentage (37%). UC Davis (3-0, 2-0) ranks even higher at second in percentage (43.5%) and fifth in threes per game (10.0).
The Aggies made a school-record 17 threes against UC San Diego last week.
“Their big kid (6-foot-3 Sage) Stobbart made something like four threes in their first game against San Diego,” Henrickson said. “She’s 7-for-16 from three in their three games. It’s a real credit to her that she’s spent time in the gym to be able to do that.”
Stobbart, a junior forward, leads the Aggies with averages of 15.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Kayla Conrad, a 6-foot junior, is next at 14.0 points.
“They run similar offenses from last year, with guards that post and shoot the three, and posts that post and shoot the three,” Henrickson said. “They do a good job of trying to find mismatches and creating opportunities at the three.”
Taylor Mole, a 6-2 transfer from Colorado State, has given UCSB opponents their own matchup nightmare since becoming eligible for Big West play. She’s averaging 16.2 points, shooting 50% from three (8-for-16), and 8.8 rebounds.
Henrickson is looking for more ways to use the versatile junior.
“She had 22 at San Diego and we don’t run anything for her,” she said. “We want her to be more comfortable putting the ball on the floor. I told her that’s her next step: ‘When you can’t shoot it, you’re to put the ball on the floor and make a play for you or for somebody else.’
“We’re trying to get her to be more aggressive.”
Henrickson said 5-8 freshman Anya Choice got that message, scoring 18 points in UCSB’s last game on Jan. 16 at UC San Diego to improve her average to 7.6 per game.
“She really made that change — she really grew before the San Diego game,” she said. “In those two weeks of practice, we really saw her come on and attack and be more aggressive.
“It’s what we’ve asked of everyone. If you just show up and lace up your sneakers and just attend practice, you’re not going to get better. You have to be intentional about getting better. There’s been a buy-in and a collective ownership of that.”
Alyssa Marin, the Gauchos’ other freshman guard, is shooting 42.3% from three and averaging 7.4 points per game. Senior guards Doris Jones (36.7%, 14.9 points), and Danae Miller (35.7%, 11.2 points) have also been major three-point threats.
Miller also ranks 33rd in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.67).
But Henrickson wasn’t happy with UCSB’s defense during its 73-71 loss at San Diego.
“We challenged Doris from a defensive standpoint, like we did everybody else after that game,” she said. “We need her to give more and she has more to give.
“We also need her on the glass more. She’s really one of the most athletic players in our conference.”