By ERIC BOOSE
UCSB women’s basketball (14-5, 7-2 Big West) has the chance to complete a pair of regular-season sweeps this week, as they take on Cal Poly (5-13, 2-8 Big West) in San Luis Obispo Thursday before returning to the Thunderdome to host CSUN (4-17, 3-8 Big West) on Saturday. Thursday’s game is another edition of the Blue-Green Rivalry, a series in which the Gauchos are 60-31 all time.
UCSB will be celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day when they host CSUN on Saturday. As part of that celebration, student-athletes and coaches from the Gauchos’ women’s teams will hold an autograph signing and question-and-answer session after the conclusion of the game. Also, all kids under the age of 18 will receive free admission to Saturday’s game.
LAST TIME OUT
The Gauchos welcomed Hawai’i to the Thunderdome in their last game for a clash between the two preseason title favorites. Thanks to a 30-6 scoring run in the second half, UCSB turned a 20-point deficit into a three-point win over the Rainbow Wahine, 72-69. Alexis Tucker led all scorers with 23 points, and Ila Lane recorded her conference-leading eighth double-double of the season (15 points, 10 rebounds). For a complete recap, click here.
MILESTONES REACHED AND TO COME
Seniors Alexis Tucker and Ila Lane made history in their last game, as both players scored their 1000th career point against Hawai’i, making them the 29th and 30th women to reach the milestone in a Gaucho uniform. Tucker, who began her career playing in the post for Texas Tech, has grown into an excellent scoring guard since transferring to UCSB and now has 1,011 points to her name. Lane took only three seasons to reach the mark, having opted out of the 2020-21 season. She now has 1,004 points and 799 career rebounds. To read more, click here.
In the Blue-Green Rivalry, UCSB owns nearly twice as many wins as Cal Poly. The Gauchos are 60-31 against the team from San Luis Obispo, collecting that 60th win earlier this season at the Thunderdome, 65-59. UCSB swept the season series in 2021-22.
When it comes to facing the Matadors, the Gauchos are used to winning. UCSB has won the last six meetings and are 50-20 all time against CSUN. The last time the Matadors won in Santa Barbara was Jan. 31, 2018.
GAUCHOS AMONG THE BIG WEST’S BEST
UCSB runs one of the best offenses in The Big West, leading the conference in scoring (68.4 points per game) and assists (15 per game). Alexis Tucker leads the Gauchos in scoring (13 points per game). Ila Lane is not far behind (12.8 ppg) thanks in large part to shooting .552 from the floor, which is the best field goal percentage in The Big West.
Lane also leads the conference in rebounding (8.95 per game) and double-doubles (8). Her control of the glass helps the Gauchos average a conference-best 37.8 boards a game. UCSB’s +4.68 rebound margin also tops the conference leaderboard.
A trio of guards — Alyssa Marin, Anya Choice, and Callie Cooper — handle playmaking duties for the Gauchos, with all three among The Big West’s top ten in assists. Marin’s 3.47 assists per game and 1.74 assist/turnover ratio both rank second in conference.
SCOUTING THE MUSTANGS
Wins have been hard to come by for Cal Poly this season; the Mustangs are tied for last place in The Big West, alongside CSU Bakersfield and UC Riverside, with a 2-8 record. Cal Poly’s only conference wins this season have come against the Roadrunners and Highlanders. But the Mustangs have tested themselves against the very best this season, taking on both #1 South Carolina and #2 Stanford as part of their non-conference schedule.
Sophomore guard Annika Shah is one of only two Mustangs to start every game this season and is Cal Poly’s leading scorer and assister. Shah’s 10.4 points per game puts her 15th on the conference leaderboards, while her 2.7 assists per game are good for 13th. Cal Poly’s only other 18-game starter is another sophomore guard, Sydney Bourland. Despite her position, she has hauled in more rebounds (90) than any other Mustang this season, and is second on the team in rebounds per game (5.0) behind junior forward Natalia Ackerman (5.2).
The Mustangs are coached by Shanele Stires, who is in her first year as a Division-I head coach. Prior to Cal Poly, Stires was head coach at Division-II Cal State East Bay, earning a record of 94-53 over six seasons. She has 13 years of experience as an assistant coach at various Division-I programs.
SCOUTING THE MATADORS
CSUN won their first three Big West games this season but have been on an eight-game skid since, including a 45-70 loss to the Gauchos in Northridge on January 19. When they arrive at The Thunderdome Saturday, they will be looking for their first win in 30 days. CSUN’s strength is their outside shooting. The Matadors lead The Big West in three-point percentage, shooting .354 from deep as a team.
No Matador is a more efficient outside shooter than Tess Amundsen. The graduate forward leads her team in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game and ranks fifth in conference. Lethal from outside, Amundsen’s .452 three-point percentage leads The Big West. Fellow graduate Jordyn Jackson forms a dynamic duo with Amundsen, with the guard averaging 13.2 points a game while also leading the team in assists (3 per game). Both women have multiple 20-point games this season, most recently Jackson’s 23 points against UC Irvine on Jan. 28.
The Matadors are coached by Carlene Mitchell, who was officially named head coach in March 2022 after spending a year as interim head coach. Mitchell was Bonnie Henrickson’s predecessor at UCSB, leading the Gauchos from 2011-15.
UCSB will be back in the Thunderdome on Thursday, Feb. 9 to play Long Beach State, with tip-off at 7 p.m. February is Black History Month, and the Gauchos will be celebrating Black history at Thursday’s game against the Beach. For fans who cannot make it to the Thunderdome, the game will be live on ESPN+ and live stats will be available at www.ucsbgauchos.com.
Eric Boose writes about sports for UCSB.