UCSB Opens Big West Play at Cal Poly
Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013 at 4pm
UC Santa Barbara vs. Cal Poly(7-7)
at Mott Gym
All-time Record vs. Mustangs: 51-21
Last Time: L 62-43
Online Audio: UCSBgauchos.com
Live Stats: UCSBgauchos.com
Week in Review
Nearly two weeks ago, the Gauchos wrapped up their nonconference schedule in Salt Lake City where they fell to Utah 66-57. Just two days before, though, UCSB rallied back from 19 points down to beat Seattle in the Thunderdome 78-75. In that game, Nicole Nesbit led the team with 24 points, while she and the two other seniors combined for 55. The Gauchos' point total was the highest recorded in a winning effort this season.
Blue Green Rivalry
UCSB will open its Big West schedule against Cal Poly this Saturday. Though UCSB has a 51-21 all-time record against its rival, it has been the Mustangs that have owned the recent success as they have downed the Gauchos five straight times. The last time these teams met was in last season's semifinal round of the Big West Tournament, when Big West Player of the Year Molly Schlemer led her team to a 62-43 victory with 26 points and nine rebounds.
Charging on Offense
This year's Gaucho team has been Carlene Mitchell's most offensively productive group since she took the helm in 2011. The team has averaged 67.1 points per game so far, easily beating out the 51.5 (2011-12) and 50.3 (2012-13) averages UCSB held entering conference play in the previous two seasons.
The Gauchos lead the Big West by shooting 42 percent from the field this season. They also pace the conference by averaging the fewest turnovers with 13.8 per game. While handling the ball well on offense, UCSB has limited its competition on defense, as it has allowed 69.9 ppg (third fewest in the league).
New Girl in Town
Junior Clair Watkins had a late start to her season, but she has already made a significant impact on the UCSB roster. Standing at 6-4, the Vanderbilt transfer is by far the Gauchos' tallest player. In just three games, Watkins has established a strong presence in the post, grabbing a team-high seven rebounds per game. Quick handed, Watkins also leads the team with 2.3 steals per contest, outpacing the team's second highest mark by nearly a full swipe.
UCSB's senior class has carried the offense through the first four games. With Nicole Nesbit (18.1), Destini Mason (13.2), and Melissa Zornig (12.9) all averaging double digits, the senior guards have scored nearly 66 percent of the team's total points. All three are among Big West's top-15 scorers: Nesbit (2nd), Mason (13th), and Zornig (14th).
She Steals...She Scores!
Nicole Nesbit has been a steady force on offense for UCSB, but she has also been disruptive on the defensive end. The senior leads the team with 18 steals, just 10 shy of her season total last year. With the ball, Nesbit has scored the second most points in the Big West (235) and only has committed an average of 1.6 turnovers, the second-best among the UCSB starters. Her 2.1 assists/turnover ratio is also second on the team only to Melissa Zornig's mark of 2.5.
While UCSB's first Big West game is on Saturday, Cal Poly will be tipping off their conference schedule in Hawai'i on Thursday night. The Rainbow Wahine have a distinct home court advantage, evidenced by last year's 8-1 home record against Big West opponents. The long road trip across the Pacific is tough, but proving to be more difficult is the trip back. Last season, of the four teams that played in Hawai'i to start their week, all of them ended up losing their following game on the mainland by an average margin of six points.
Meet the Mustangs
Cal Poly will come into Saturday's match with a 1-0 record after beating Hawai'i on the road in overtime 78-74. Jonae Ervin led the Mustangs with a double-double, scoring a career-high 37 points and grabbing 10 boards. Reigining Big West Player of the Year Molly Schlemer leads the team with 17.8 ppg (third best in the league), while the team averages 75.1.
Melissa Zornig has become a well-rounded player this season, as she is among the top-three Gauchos in points, rebounds, and assists. She averages 12.9 ppg (third), 5.1 rpg, (third) and 3.1 asg (second). Her 2.5 assists/turnover ratio is the third best mark in the league. The senior has come close to recording her first double double on two occasions this season. First at St. Mary's, she poured in a team-high 19 points while also dishing out nine assists. She then came up just one rebound shy at Pepperdine with 18 points and nine boards on her stat sheet.
Though only freshmen, Onome Jemerigbe and Mi'Chael Wright have stepped up and played productive minutes for the Gauchos this season. At point guard, Jemerigbe has been a starter in all but one of UCSB's games this season and is tied for the team lead with 15 steals. As one of the team's true post players, Wright is the team's most efficient shooter, as she has made 65.6 percent of her shots.
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. 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.
Last season, UCSB played in the postseason for the 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.