UCSB women’s basketball fans should remember December 7, 2008, if the Gauchos go on to do great things under Lindsay Gottlieb. That was the day they really started to gel as a team, six games into Gottlieb’s head coaching career.
Gonzaga came into the Thunderdome on Sunday with an 8-1 record while averaging almost 80 points a game, and UCSB blew the Bulldogs away by a 59-47 score.
The Gauchos (3-3) won their second straight game with a sticky defensive performance, having held Nevada to 37 points last Thursday. Sunday’s effort was even more impressive. Gonzaga is the four-time defending champion of the West Coast Conference, and 6’2″ junior forward Heather Bowman was the WCC Player of the Year in 2007-08. Bowman led all scorers with 16 points, but she made just six of 18 shots from the floor, marginally better than the Bulldogs shot as a team (32.1 percent).
UCSB shot 41.8 percent and had balanced scoring. Margaret Johnson, a 5’11” sophomore, stepped in for suspended starter Ashlee Brown and led the Gauchos with 13 points and eight rebounds. She also had four assists.
Freshman guard Emilie Johnson scored 10 points. Her first two baskets were 3-pointers. The second trey, with UCSB trailing 13-9 late in the first half, ignited a 14-3 run that put the Gauchos ahead 23-16 at halftime. The lead swelled to 23 points (52-29) before the Bulldogs put on a desperate rally to cut the difference to a dozen.
UCSB’s Meagan Williams and Kat Suderman came off the bench and combined for 16 points. Lauren Pedersen, the team’s leading scorer coming into the game, missed 10 shots but more than made up for it by dishing off a career-high 12 assists and coming up with seven steals. “If people are crowding me, I’ve got four other teammates,” the senior guard said.
“I’m impressed when Lauren goes one-for-11 and we win the game,” Gottlieb said. The coach said she is finding out what her team is about. “Our identity is … it’s not one or two people,” she said. “It’s when everybody steps in and plays her role to the best of her ability.”
The Gaucho women will try to win their first road game at Pepperdine next Sunday. They return home for a December 17 game against Harvard. All emergency responders 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 (7 p.m.).