Nov. 4, 2009
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Despite leaving her mark on the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball program over her six years at the school, it's hard to think that the 2009-10 version of the Gauchos will be hankering for Jenna Green to return to the court.
In the Thunderdome on Wednesday night, Mekia Valentine quickly put Green's illustrious Gaucho career out of her teammates and the fans' minds.
Valentine led all players with 28 points and 12 rebounds in her first action in a UCSB uniform, leading the Gauchos to a 63-54 victory over Westmont in an exhibition game.
Almost effortlessly Valentine exerted her presence in the paint with fluid moves to the basket, offensive and defensive rebounds - of which she had six apiece - while going 12 of 17 from the floor in just 23 minutes. The 6-foot-4 forward had to sit out the 2008-09 season after transferring to UCSB from Wake Forest.
"It was fun to see Mekia in a uniform," UCSB head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "She runs the floor as well as any post I've seen and Emilie did a great job of finding her."
Valentine was hardly the only one who made an impression on Wednesday.
Emilie Johnson had 15 points while also passing out seven assists, each of which would have been career-highs had the game been counted. In her first-ever collegiate game, freshman forward Sweets Underwood had five points and nine rebounds while Meagan Williams had six points, six assists and three rebounds and Jordan Franey added eight boards.
It wasn't as easy as it sounds, though.
After leading for the entire first half and the first five minutes of the second half, the Gauchos watched Westmont take a 36-34 lead on a 3-pointer by Vanessa Farias and the lead then swelled to seven points as Katie Kittle buried another three, one of eight the Warriors made on the night.
However Ariana Gnekow grabbed a steal and went in for a breakaway layup and Johnson hit a three-ball to wrestle the lead back before Valentine and Johnson made consecutive layups with 3:24 left to take a 56-52 lead as the Gauchos held off Westmont down the stretch.
"Westmont is a well-coached team with their top three scorers back from last year, kids who can play and who have confidence, so we had no doubt it would be a battle," Gottlieb said. "I'm pleased with how my players dug in and got critical stops when we needed to, but I think that defensive intensity and rebounding needs to be there for 40 minutes."
UCSB will officially open its season on Friday, Nov. 13 when it hosts Fresno State in a 7 p.m. game at the Thunderdome.
To purchase tickets, please call (805) 893-UCSB, visit the Ticket Office located inside the Intercollegiate Athletics building on campus or click here.
Men's and women's basketball season tickets are still available, giving fans an opportunity to catch the Gauchos all season long.
Season tickets are only $125 for men's basketball and $100 for women's basketball (35% lower than last year). Similar to the successful men's soccer family plan, a new Family Plan season ticket is now available for both men's and women's basketball. Family plans, which include five season tickets (two adults and three youth season tickets), are $300 for men's basketball, $225 for women's basketball or get the combo plan (both men's and women's) for just $400. That's just $2.66 per game! UCSB faculty/staff will also receive 50% off pricing on all season tickets.
And, purchase tickets to receive a complimentary Olé bobblehead doll! Click here to learn more about season ticket packages or to buy today!
UCSB Athletics has a new weekly radio show called Talk'n Gauchos which airs every Tuesday from 6-7 p.m. on AM 1490 KIST. The show is broadcast live from State & A Bar and Grill, located on the corner of State Street and Anapamu Street in Santa Barbara. Fans are encouraged to attend the show for free gear and ticket giveaways or to even e-mail a question in to one of the guests and have it read live over the air. The show also airs live online via audio streaming and fans can click here to check out the entire lineup of live audio streaming online.