UCSB Squares Off With Cal Poly In Battle of Big West Unbeatens

UCSB Squares Off With Cal Poly In Battle of Big West Unbeatens

Jan. 17, 2008

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The Schedule
Game No. 16
Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 4:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (9-6, 4-0) at Cal Poly Mustangs (7-10, 4-0)
Mott Gym (3,032)

This Week
After posting home victories over UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton during week two of conference play, UC Santa Barbara hits the road again with just one game on the slate this week. UCSB will take on Central Coast rival Cal Poly Saturday at 4:00 p.m. with Big West supremacy on the line in a match-up promises to be a dandy. Both teams enter this weekend's tilt undefeated against league competition and boast identical 4-0 records. Additionally, the Gauchos and Mustangs have traded victories the last four meetings and Santa Barbara has won 10 of the last 11 in San Luis Obispo. The UCSB men's team will also play Cal Poly at Mott Gym on Saturday in a rare Big West men's and women's doubleheader. Tip-off for the men's contest is slated for 7:00 p.m.

For the Record
Santa Barbara's current winning streak reached five games with victories over the Anteaters and Titans and the Gauchos enter Saturday's showdown a season-high three games over the .500 mark at 9-6 overall. UCSB pulled away late to defeat Irvine 76-68 in its conference home opener last Thursday and then escaped with a 59-58 overtime win over Fullerton two days later after erasing a 10-point deficit with 5:37 remaining in regulation. The Gauchos, who are one victory shy of matching their longest winning streak of 2006-07, remained unbeaten in league play and currently sit atop the Big West standings at 4-0. UCSB brings a respectable 4-3 road mark to San Luis Obispo on Saturday.

Gauchos on the Air & Web
The clash with Cal Poly, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2007-08, will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Steve Wendt is in his fourth season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos and former UCSB and Los Angeles Lakers star Don "Double Duty" Ford will handle most of the color commentary this season. UCSB's student radio station will also cover Saturday's match-up and that broadcast can be heard live on KCSB 91.9 FM or online at www.kcsb.org. If radio isn't your thing, you can watch all games live via the internet by going to www.bigwest.tv and purchasing the UCSB season package. For the third straight year the Big West Conference and CSTV are partnering to bring exclusive Big West Gaucho events to fans online. BigWest.TV offers on-demand access to LIVE coverage of Big West contests as well as press conferences, features, and Big West Championships.

UCSB Pulls Off Another Comeback in the T-Dome
Three of the Gauchos' four home wins this season have come in thrilling fashion and last Saturday's come-from-behind victory over Cal State Fullerton was the latest installment. Trailing 46-36 with 5:37 to play, UCSB scored 12 unanswered points over the next four minutes to take their first lead of the afternoon at 48-46 with 1:35 remaining. Sha'Rae Gibbons started things off with a big three and Jessica Wilson scored five points during the decisive run as Santa Barbara clawed its way back into the game. The Titans then scored the next four to regain the lead, but Kat Suderman's turn-around jumper on the next possession knotted the score at 50-50 and the game went to overtime. Wilson took over in the extra session, giving the Gauchos the lead for good with a pair of free-throws 50 seconds in. The Sacramento, Calif. native scored six of UCSB's nine points in overtime and hauled in six rebounds in the final five minutes to propel Santa Barbara to the 59-58 victory.

Women Of Steal
UCSB has been excellent at forcing steals lately, averaging nearly 13 per game over the last four. After recording back-to-back double-digit totals against Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge in the first week of Big West play, the Gauchos racked up a season-high 18 steals in their win over UC Irvine last Thursday. In fact, it was Santa Barbara's highest total in a game since Mar. 3, 2006 when the Gauchos recorded 19 in an 85-63 home win over Cal state Northridge. UCSB finished with 11 steals against Cal State Fullerton and currently ranks second in the Big West averaging 9.8 per game.

About The Coach
Mark French returned to his alma mater at the start of 1987-88 season and women's basketball at UC Santa Barbara has never been the same. In his 21st season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 424-198 (.682) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 522-312 (.626). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 16 years, French's Gauchos have won 12 Big West Conference titles and advanced to 11 NCAA Tournaments -- including five second rounds and a Sweet 16 appearance -- as well as three Postseason WNITs. Individually, French has earned an unprecedented seven Big West Coach of the Year honors, while in 2002-03 he was named WBCA District 8 Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year award. He is the dean of Big West coaches, with nine more years of experience in the league than any of his current counterparts and holds conference records for league wins and consecutive seasons at one school. French reached two major coaching milestones last season, winning his 400th victory at UCSB with a 78-67 Santa Barbara win over Pepperdine Dec.18 and then notched his 500th career victory overall when the Gauchos defeated Long Beach State Jan. 4.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Was 4-of-7 for 15 points in Gauchos' win over UC Irvine.
G - Jessica Wilson - Recorded second double-double of 2007-08 in win over Cal State Fullerton.
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Was just 2-for-16 from the field against Anteaters and Titans.
F - Whitney Warren - Tallied season-highs with 6 rebounds and 2 assists vs. Fullerton.
F - Kat Suderman - Averaging a team-high 15.8 points per game in Big West play.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Lauren Pedersen - Leads UCSB averaging 3.2 assists and is the team leader with 11 blocks.
G - Meagan Williams - Tallied 8 points, 7 boards, and a career-high 4 assists against Anteaters.
G - Ariana Gnekow - Finished with 3 rebounds and a block in 12 minutes vs. CSUF.
F - Ashlee Brown - Was 6-of-7 from the field in two games last week.
F - Jordan Franey - Dished out a season-high 3 assists in win over Irvine.
F - Margaret Johnson - Missed the last three games, expected to play at Cal Poly.
C - Jessie Goble - played a total of 3 minutes vs. Anteaters and Titans.

Road Sweet Road?
While the Gauchos have a slightly better home record at 4-2 than they do on the road (4-3), statistically they have been a much better team when playing outside of Santa Barbara this season. UCSB is averaging 71.7 points per game in its seven road contests and is putting up just 65.0 in six games in the Thunderdome. The Gauchos have also shot the ball much better in away games, shooting 45.2% overall and 37.6% from behind the three-point line in opposing gyms, compared to an overall mark of just 37% and a 26.2% clip from distance at home. Playing just three of its last 10 games in the Thunderdome and having just completed its longest homestand of the season -- two games -- its not difficult to see why the Gauchos' offense has struggled at home so far in 2007-08.

Quick Hits
UCSB improved to 7-0 when leading at halftime this season after last Thursday's win over UC Irvine...The Gauchos are now 2-6 when trailing at intermission following the comeback victory over Cal State Fullerton...After coming out on top in two close games last week, Santa Barbara is now 7-2 in games decided by 10 points or less and 2-1 in contests decided by five or less...With their 34.4% clip against the Titans, the Gauchos saw their string of five consecutive games shooting better than 40% from the field come to an end...UCSB is shooting 44.1% from the field and averaging 73.2 points per game in league play, compared to 41.3% and an average of 68.1 points per game overall this season.

Scouting the Mustangs
• UCSB squares off with Cal Poly with sole possession of first place in the Big West standings on the line this Saturday. The Gauchos and Mustangs have locked horns 56 times over the years and Santa Barbara holds a 42-14 advantage in the all-time series. The two teams split two contests a year ago, with each squad winning on the other's home floor. Jessica Wilson scored 19 points to lead the Gauchos to a 68-62 victory in San Luis Obispo on Jan. 20, before the Mustangs escaped with a 71-68 win in the Thunderdome Feb. 17 to return the favor. Jenna Green scored a career-high 29 points in the defeat. Cal Poly will take on Cal State Bakersfield in a non-conference affair Thursday night.

• Head coach Faith Mimnaugh is in her 11th year at the helm and welcomes back four starters and 11 letterwinners from least year's squad that finished with an overall record of 14-14 and placed third in the Big West standings at 9-5.

• Cal Poly enters Saturday's match-up with an overall record of 7-10 after dropping a 64-59 non-conference decision at Cal State Bakersfield Thursday night. The Mustangs began conference play mired in a six-game losing streak but have turned it around since then, winning their first four Big West pairings by an average of nearly 17 points. Cal Poly is 4-4 at Mott Gym this season and ranks third in the Big West averaging 67.5 points per game. Defensively, the Mustangs rank fifth, allowing 70.2 points per night. Junior forward Megan Harrison is the only player to start every game for the Mustangs this season and leads the team averaging 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds. She is the Big West's third-leading scorer and seventh-leading rebounder. Lisa McBride, Cal Poly's other junior forward, is second averaging 12.7 points and 6.7 rebounds, while shooting a team-high 47.9% from the field.

Wilson Tabbed Big West Player of the Week
Jessica Wilson earned her fourth career Big West Conference Player of the Week award on Monday after averaging a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds in the Gauchos' league wins over UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton last week. The senior guard finished with 13 points, five rebounds, and four steals in the victory over the Anteaters and scored seven consecutive points late in the second half to give the Gauchos an 11-point lead with 1:29 remaining. The Sacramento, Calif. native was even better on Saturday against Cal State Fullerton, scoring 11 of her 17 points in the final four minutes of regulation and in overtime to help UCSB erase a 10-point deficit with 5:37 remaining. She tallied six of the Gauchos' nine points in the extra session and hauled in six rebounds in overtime alone. In all, Wilson racked up 17 points and 11 rebounds to record her second double-double of the season and ninth of her career. Wilson leads the team averaging 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and is third dishing out 2.3 assists. She has been very impressive from the field in 2007-08, shooting 48.5%, which is second only to Meagan Williams. Wilson has reached double figures in each of the last four games and is averaging 14.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in Big West play.

Kat Tales
Junior forward Kat Suderman turned in two more solid performances last week, helping UCSB remain undefeated in conference play. After averaging 16.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in the Gauchos' victories over Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge two weeks ago, Suderman was an impressive 8-of-13 from the field for 16 points against the Anteaters. She also tallied six rebounds, a career-high three blocks, and two steals in Santa Barbara's 76-68 win. The San Luis Obispo, Calif. native finished with 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting against the Titans and also recorded three rebounds in a career-high 33 minutes. On the season, Suderman ranks second on the squad averaging 10.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and ranks third in field goal percentage, shooting 45.6% from the floor. The 6-foot-4 forward has now scored in double figures in eight of the last nine games and leads the Gauchos averaging 15.8 points in Big West games.

Gibbons Regains Her Touch
Entering last Thursday's contest with UC Irvine, Sha'Rae Gibbons had been a prolonged slump, shooting just 16.2% (6-37) from the floor in UCSB's previous six games. But the Sacramento, Calif. native finally found her touch against the Anteaters, finishing 4-for-7 from the floor, including 2-of-5 from distance, and 6-for-7 at the free-throw line. Gibbons finished with 15 points, reaching double figures for the first time since scoring 11 in a losing effort at Portland State on Dec. 6. The junior guard also recorded three assists and tied a career-high with four steals. Gibbons finished 3-of-5 from the field and 1-for-3 from beyond the arc for eight points to go with five assists and three steals against Cal State Fullerton Saturday. After averaging 12.3 points in the first seven games of 2007-08, she has put up just 6.0 over the last eight.

Williams Provides Spark Off the Bench
Sophomore guard Meagan Williams had an impressive performance off the bench against UCI, finishing with eight points on 3-of-7 shooting. The Sacramento, Calif. native also tallied a game-high seven rebounds to go with four assists, three steals, and a block. Through four games, Williams is third on the team averaging 8.8 points per game against league foes. For the season, she is averaging 6.3 points and 2.5 rebounds and over 57% of her boards have come on the offensive end.

Wilson Watch
Senior guard Jessica Wilson enters Saturday's match-up with Cal Poly just 53 points shy of becoming the 22nd player in program history to score 1,000 points for her career. The Sacramento, Calif native began the season with 774 career points -- 402 of which came last year -- and has scored a total of 173 through 15 games in 2007-08. Wilson is looking to join teammate Jenna Green as a member of the elite 1,000 point club and if she does, they will become the first duo to reach the plateau together since Kristen Mann and Mia Fisher did so in 2003-04 and 2004-05. Green scored her 1,000-career point last season against Cal Poly on February 17, 2007.

Gauchos Picked To Finish Second In Preseason Polls
For the first time in over a decade the Gauchos were not selected to win the Big West Conference regular season title by either the coaches or the media in voting conducted at the league's annual media day Oct. 25. UCSB finished second in both polls behind regular season and conference tournament champion UC Riverside, who received eight first place votes and 64 total points to capture the top spot in the preseason coaches' poll. Santa Barbara received one first place vote and 57 points, finishing a unanimous second. UC Davis was chosen to finish third with 44 points, while Cal Poly received the fourth place nod with 41. Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, Pacific, Cal State Northridge, and UC Irvine followed rounding out the poll. In the media poll, the Gauchos received one first place vote and 81 total points to finish second behind the Highlanders, who garnered nine first place votes and 89 points. Complete results of the voting can be seen at the bottom left of this page.

Green, Wilson Tabbed Preseason All-Conference
When the media selected a Preseason All-Big West Team at this year's annual media day, UCSB had two players selected, marking the sixth consecutive year a Gaucho made the squad. Senior center Jenna Green earned one of the six spots for a third consecutive year after earning All-Big West First Team honors last season. The San Jose, Calif. native led the Gauchos in points (16.6), rebounds (7.1), and blocked shots (1.7) for the second straight year, while shooting a league-best 53.7% from the field in 2006-07. Green was the only player to start all 33 games for UCSB last season. Also earning a nod for the preseason all-conference squad was senior guard Jessica Wilson. Wilson led the Big West averaging 4.5 assists and finished in the conference's top 10 in six major statistical categories. The Sacramento, Calif. native earned a second consecutive Second Team All-Big West selection after averaging 13.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in 31 games a year ago.

UCSB Inks Two For 2008-09
UC Santa Barbara signed a pair of high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during the early signing period, head coach Mark French announced Nov. 16. Emilie Johnson, a 5'6" point guard from Roseville, Calif. and Megan Kritscher, a 6'3" forward from Woodland, Calif. will join the Gauchos for the 2008-09 season as true freshmen. Johnson is in her senior season at Del Oro High School in Roseville, where she was named the 2006-07 Sierra Foothill League MVP after averaging 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 3.2 steals, while shooting 43% from the field as a junior last season. The only junior to earn a spot on the Sacramento Bee All-Metro First Team, Johnson led the Golden Eagles to 26-2 record and a third consecutive SFL championship a year ago. She is a three-time all-league selection and was named the Sonora Kiwanis Tournament MVP as a sophomore in 2006. Kritscher signs with UCSB after averaging 12.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 5.5 blocked shots per game as a junior at Pioneer High School last season. An All-Tri-County League selection, Kritscher scored a career-best 22 points while hauling in 11 rebounds and blocking three shots to lead the Patriots to a 44-30 victory over rival Woodland High School last year and recorded a career-high 10 blocks in a game against Inderkum. She was also an all-league performer in volleyball for PHS last season.