UCSB Hosts Occidental College to Open 2013-14 Season

Destini Mason (Photo by Vince Agapito)
Destini Mason (Photo by Vince Agapito)

Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013 at 2pm
UC Santa Barbara vs. Occidental College
at Thunderdome
All-time record vs. Tigers: First Time
Radio: KZSB 1290 AM
Online Audio: UCSBgauchos.com
Video: BigWest.tv
Live Stats: UCSBgauchos.com

Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013 at 2pm
UC Santa Barbara vs. Arizona
Radio: KZSB 1290 AM
Online Audio: UCSBgauchos.com
Video: BigWest.tv
Live Stats: UCSBgauchos.com

Dome Sweet Dome
UC Santa Barbara will host its first three games of the 2013-14 season in the Thunderdome. It is the first time since the 2007-08 season since the Gauchos opened their schedule with that many home games.    

On Sunday, UCSB hosted Vanguard in its only exhibition game of the season. The Lions –who are the preseason No. 1 team in the NAIA– held off the Gauchos' furious second half comeback to pull off the 69-66 win. Nicole Nesbit finished the game by leading the Gauchos in points (15), rebounds (7), and assists (6). The senior guard's numbers helped UCSB erase the 16 point deficit they faced in the second half, as she scored 13 of her points in the final 20 minutes.

Getting Offensive
UCSB's 66 points against Vanguard was the most points the Gauchos have scored in an exhibition during the Carlene Mitchell era. The Gauchos shot for 42.4 percent from the field in the second half when they scored 39 points. Last year, the team did not hit the 60-point mark in a game until its fifth matchup of the season against Mississippi State.   

Senior Workload
Melissa Zornig played a team-high 33 minutes last Sunday, including 17 in the second half. The Gaucho senior netted 13 points in addition to her three assists and two steals. The guard also lead UCSB in three-point shooting as she was on-target for two of her five attempts. No other Gaucho played more than 29 minutes.

More from Morrison
Entering her sophomore season, Kendra Morrison showed her offensive touch against Vanguard by pouring in 10 points and going 4-6 from the field. In the game, she earned the second start of her career and the first since the Gauchos hosted St. Mary's (CA) on Dec. 1, 2012.  The 6-1 forward also added six rebounds in her 24 minutes of play.

All Hands on Deck
Against Vanguard, all nine Gauchos played at least 11 minutes. The bench contributed 17 points as Kristine Brance led the reserves with nine. Of all the newcomers, Mi'Chael Wright was the only one who earned a starting roll against the Lions. The freshman forward pulled down three rebounds in her 13 minutes of play.

Nesbit On Point
Nicole Nesbit leads a talented senior class heading into the new season. Becoming a perennial starter as a junior last year, she is coming off her most prolific offensive season as she scored 348 points, second most on the team. Nesbit has netted 835 points in her career and is well on pace to join UCSB's 1,000-point club. She will need to average 12.7 points per game to reach the milestone before the start of the conference schedule on Jan. 11.  

In Our Defense
Since Carlene Mitchell has been head coach, the Gauchos have led the league the past two seasons in scoring defense. Last season, UCSB held its opponents to just 52.4 points per game– 19th in the nation – and allowed only 53.2 ppg –7th nationally.

Taking on the Tigers
Occidental College plays at the Division III level in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC). The Tigers graduated their all-time leading scorer, Makenzie Brandon, last season, a year in which the team fell to Cal Lutheran in the conference semifinals. The team's top returner this season is Elizabeth Messick who was named First-Team All-SCIAC last spring after she provided the Tigers with a big presence in the post, as she averaged 8.9 rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game.      

Big West Preseason Poll
In the the conference's preseason media poll, the Gauchos were selected to finish fifth in the Big West, receiving 100 total votes. The defending champion Cal Poly was selected as the No. 1 team in the poll with its 17 first-place votes. Hawai'i will be entering its second season as a member of the Big West and was picked to finish second.  

Class of 2017
UCSB welcomes a talented group of freshmen to their roster this season. Onome Jemerigbe is a point guard who experienced consistent success at the high school level as she helped St. Mary's HS (Stockton, Calif.) to two CIF State Championships and four state semifinals. At forward, Mi'Chael Wright brings a physical presence to the low post. At Chaminade HS, Wright averaged 15 points as a senior while also grabbing 290 rebounds. She was named her league's CIF Player of the Year as a senior. Melissa Maragnes will add much needed height to the team this season at 6-2. With a mix of her size and athleticism, Maragnes set St. Monica High's single-season blocks record with 60.

2012-13 Recap
Last season, UCSB played in the postseason for 16th time in the past 17 seasons by competing in its fifth WNIT. The Gauchos finished the season overal 16-17 and 11-7 in Big West play, qualifying for the fourth seed in the conference tournament. Senior Sweets Underwood and junior Nicole Nesbit were both recognized by the Big West for their standout play on the floor, as Underwood was named first-team all-conference while Nesbit was an honorable mention. Underwood finished the season with a team-high 401 points and became the 24th player in program history to score 1,000 or more career points.

The Mitchell File
Head coach Carlene Mitchell has led the Gauchos to two postseason berths through her first two seasons at the helm. She is the first UCSB coach in program history to accomplish that feat. In 2012-13, the Gauchos competed in the WNIT, while in Mitchell's inaugural season the team captured the Big West crown and competed in the NCAA Tournament. In each of her seasons, Mitchell has coached two players to all-conference status, while also coached 1,000-point scorer Sweets Underwood in her most prolific scoring season. Mitchell has seen two of her players take their talents overseas to play at the professional level as Emilie Johnson is competing in Poland with Riviera Gdynia, while Sweets Underwood is now playing in Germany with the Gruner Stern Keltran Basketball Team.