Gauchos Heading to Big West Tournament

Nicole Nesbit (Photo by Vince Agapito)
Nicole Nesbit (Photo by Vince Agapito)

Big West Quarterfinals Round
Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 8:30 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (15-15, 11-7 Big West) vs. Highest Seed Remaining rom First Round
Radio: KZSB 1290 AM
Online Audio:
Live Stats:

Friday, March 15, 2013- if necesary
Saturday, March 16, 2013 if necesary
Big West Tournament Semifinals and Finals

• Gauchos Look to Defend Big West Crown
UC Santa Barbara is the fourth seed entering this year's Big West Tournament and will begin tournament play at approximately 8:30 on Wednesday, Mar. 13th, at the Bren Events Center on the UC Irvine campus. Coincidently, the Gauchos will be starting this year's tournament in the same arena they started in last season's Big West Championship run.  

• For The Record
The Gauchos finished the regular season with a 15-15 overall record and an 11-7 mark in the Big West.  

• Business as Usual
With an 11-7 Big West record, the Gauchos have now finished .500 or better in conference action for an unprecedented 23rd consecutive year.

• Hardware Collection
Sweets Underwood and Nicole Nesbit both earned All-Big West honors after their standout seasons. Underwood was named to first team All-Big West. As a senior, she made Gaucho history by being named Big West Player of the Week four different times. She is the first Gaucho to be named to the list since Emilie Johnson did it back in the 2010-11 season. Nesbit earned her second career All-Big West Honorable Mention. Last year, she was the conference's Co-Sixth Player of the Year but spent the majority of this season as a starter. The transition paid off for the Gauchos as Nesbit finished the regular season as the team's second leading scorer (10.6 ppg) and assists leader (3.0 apg).

• In Our Defense
For the second consecutive season, the Gauchos led the league by limiting their opposition to a conference-low 52.8 points per game – which ranks 22nd nationally – and is 6.6 points fewer than second-ranked Hawai'i. In league play, the Gauchos are holding opponents to 50.3 points on average, 5.9 points less than second place Hawai'i.

• Hitting Their Stride
With their win over UC Irvine in their regular season finale, the Gauchos hit their season-high of a three-game win streak for the second time this season. During this stretch, UCSB has only allowed an average of 44.3 points from their opponents. They have also kept the oppposition to just an average of 31.9% shooting. When they are putting up shots, the Gauchos are knocking down 43.5% of them during the win streak.

• Where We Rank
In addition to ranking among the nation's top-25 teams in scoring defense, the Gauchos are 24th in free-throw percentage (75.5%), 61st in three-point field goal defense (28.1%), 49th in field-goal percentage defense (36%) and 70th in turnovers per game (15.2).

• RPI Rankings
Despite being fourth in the Big West, the Gauchos are the sixth team to appear on the RPI rankings at the 160 spot. Pacific leads the conference on the list, appearing in 40th place. Cal Poly and Hawai'i follow the Tigers on the list at the 81st and 122nd spots, respectively. Cal State Northridge (140) and Long Beach State (155) are the other teams to top the Gauchos in the RPI.  
• Living The Sweets Life
Sweets Underwood continues to lead the Gauchos with an average of 11.9 points per game, which ranks 10th in the Big West. She also boasts a team-leading 48.7% field goal percentage, which is the third-best among league players. With those numbers, Underwood is the first Gaucho to lead the team in points, rebounds and field goal percentage since Jenna Green did in 2006-07. The senior recorded her 12th double-double of the season against Long Beach State on Mar. 7th.

• Nesbit on Point
Junior Nicole Nesbit led the Gauchos in points last week by scoring 12 against Long Beach State and putting up 17 points in the team's regular season against UC Irvine. The guard is also netting 11.3 points per game in Big West play, which is second on the team only to Sweets Underwood's 12.3 average. Nesbit has scored in double-digit figures for six straight games and eight of the past nine. She ranks second in the Big West in free-throw shooting (87.6%) and is 17th nationally having sank 92-of-105 attempts this season.

• Destini Calling
Destini Mason has made three consecutive starts for the Gauchos after only receving the starting nod two times before in Big West play, and she has been making the most of her opportunity. In the first of the three games, Mason recorded her first collegiate double-double, which included a career-high 12 rebounds. During the stretch, she has scored 7.7 points per game, compared to her season average of 5.6 ppg.

• The Class of 2014
Juniors Nicole Nesbit and Melissa Zornig are second and third on the team, respectively, in points per game. Nesbit is averaging 10.6 points, while Zornig is averaging 8.4 points and leads the team in three-point shooting (32.5%).

• The Mitchell File
Head coach Carlene Mitchell is looking to build upon a great ending to her first season at the helm of the Gauchos – which included a Big West Tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth – in 2012-13. In addition to compiling a 17-16 record in her first campaign, she was also named one of three finalists for the Spalding Maggie Dixon Division I Rookie Coach of the Year award, which is presented by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Her career record with the Gauchos currently stands at 28-29.

• Road Warriors
This season, UCSB captured their most impressive wins as the away team. Overall, the Gauchos finished the season with an 8-5 road record, 6-3 in conference games. Along with defeating no. 1 Pacific in Stockton 52-47 on Feb. 9, UCSB stands as the only Big West team to take down Hawai'i in Honolulu after defeating the Rainbow Wahine 51-50 on Jan. 26. The Gauchos also went up to Seattle and defeated Washington, a team that has won 20 games, by a score of 54-46 on Dec. 15. In fact, UCSB have won more games on the road than they have in the Thunderdome (6-8).

• A Winning History
UCSB has won a league leading 14 Big West Championships, including nine straight starting with the 1996-97 season. Whenever the Gauchos win a Big West Championship, they have followed it up with at least one other.

• Last Year's Tournament
Last season, two Gauchos were selected to the All-Tournament team. Kirsten Tilleman was named Tournament MVP after recording a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the championship game against Long Beach State. Melissa Zornig was the team's sharpshooter in tournament play as she averaged 16.7 points per game, including a then career-high 23 points in the semifinals against Pacific.

• March Madness
In the tournament, the Gauchos have an overall record of 41-13, which includes games against teams that are no longer members of the confernece. Of the current teams, UCSB has a winning record against all but two teams (UC Davis and UC Riverside). Here are the records the Gauchos have against current programs in the Big West:
Cal Poly 2-0
Cal State Fullerton 6-1
Cal State Northridge 2-0
Hawai'i 2-0
Long Beach State 9-3
Pacific 6-3
UC Davis 1-1
UC Irvine 3-2
UC Riverside 0-2