It has been three years since the UCSB women’s basketball team has beaten a Top 25 team. On Sunday, however, they beat a team that was knocking on the Top 25’s door.
Using a stifling defense and getting contributions from the entire team, the Gauchos knocked off Gonzaga, 59-47, at the Thunderdome. It was just the second loss this season for the Bulldogs (8-2), who had been receiving votes in both the ESPN/USA Today and The Associated Press polls.
It was the second-straight win for UCSB (3-3) and the biggest win of first-year head coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s coaching career.
“I’m incredibly, incredibly happy with where this team is right now,” Gottlieb said after the Gauchos held Gonzaga to just 32.1 percent shooting from the floor. “I’m not even sure that this crowd knows how good Gonzaga is because we made them look not as good as they really are. I thought we had a really, really good game plan but that does not mean anything if the players don’t buy into it.”
It sure looked like the Gauchos were lining up at the cash register.
Margaret Johnson, making her second-straight start, missed tying her career high by one with 13 points while pulling down a game-high eight rebounds.
“I just try to bring what I bring in practice every day,” Johnson said. “I can’t bring the energy level down. I have to keep it where it was.”
Lauren Pedersen set career highs with 12 assists and seven steals, but saw her streak of 20-straight made free throws end, which had been a school record to start a season. Freshman Emilie Johnson had 10 points and five rebounds while Whitney Warren added seven points and four rebounds.
Meanwhile, UCSB’s defense held two of the nation’s top scorers in check all afternoon.
Gonzaga’s Heather Bowman entered the game averaging 19.1 points per game and, although she finished with a game-high 16, she was just six of 18 from the field. Courtney Vandersloot entered the game averaging 19.4 ppg and while she was nursing a sore ankle, she was scoreless in 15 minutes of action.
The game was a defensive battle early as the teams were tied 9-9 with over 15 minutes gone by in the first half. Then, Emilie Johnson hit a three-pointer to draw the Gauchos within one at 13-12 before Jenna Green made a layup followed by four consecutive layins for Margaret Johnson and a free throw, ending the half with UCSB ahead 23-16.
UCSB went on a 16-5 run to open the second half and pushed the lead to 20 points, 45-25, with 10:56 left. Warren and Williams each had a pair of baskets in the run as the Gauchos then relied on their defense to hold on to the victory.
UCSB has a week off for finals, then plays at Pepperdine at 2 p.m. Dec. 14. The Gauchos hosts Harvard at 7 p.m. Dec. 17. All emergency personnel who worked the Tea and Gap fires will receive two free tickets to this game by showing their emergency identification at the Thunderdome, up to two hours before tip-off.
The Harvard game is also a Coke Family Pack Night where $40 gets you four tickets, four T-shirts, four hot dogs and four Cokes. Click here for tickets, visit the Athletics Ticket Office in the ICA Building or call 805.893.8272.
Matt Hurst is UCSB’s assistant athletics communications director.