UCSB Puts Perfect Big West Mark on the Line at UC Davis, Pacific

UCSB Puts Perfect Big West Mark on the Line at UC Davis, Pacific

Jan. 22, 2008

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The Schedule
Game No. 17
Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (10-6, 5-0) at UC Davis Aggies (10-7, 4-1)
The Pavilion (7,100)

Game No. 18
Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 4:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (10-6, 5-0) at Pacific Tigers (7-11, 2-3)
Alex G. Spanos Center (6,150)

Whats On Tap
After winning the battle of the Big West unbeatens with a 75-58 victory at Cal Poly Saturday afternoon, UC Santa Barbara will now put its perfect conference record on the line against UC Davis and Pacific this week. The Gauchos have played extremely well on the road this season and will face the Aggies for the first time as members of the Big West Thursday night at the Pavilion. Tip-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. Davis has more than held its own in its first season in the conference and enters Thursday's showdown tied for third place in the standings at 4-1. In fact, the Aggies are the only Big West team other than UCSB that owns a winning record at this point in the season. The Gauchos will then complete their Northern California swing with a stop at Pacific Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Looking further ahead, Santa Barbara returns to the Thunderdome Thursday, January 31 for a showdown with defending conference champion UC Riverside.

For the Record
With the convincing win over the Mustangs, the Gauchos improved to 5-0 in conference play and claimed sole possession of first place in the Big West standings for the first time this season. The Gauchos enter competition this week with a half-game lead over the unbeaten Highlanders, who stand at 4-0 after the third week of league play. UCSB has now won its last six games overall and boasts a season record of 10-6 heading into Thursday's tilt with UC Davis. In fact, the Gauchos have not lost since dropping an 88-70 decision at at the University of Montana on Dec. 28. Santa Barbara has won its last four games away from home and enters the match-up with the Aggies with a record of 5-3 in true road contests this season.

Gauchos on the Air & Web
Both contests this week, 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 he will have the call live as the Gauchos take on the Aggies and Tigers. Yours truly will try not to scare away listeners while handling the color commentary duties for both games. 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 Bests Cal Poly To Stay Perfect in Big West Play
The Gauchos were the better team on Saturday afternoon, handily defeating Central Coast rival Cal Poly 75-58 in a battle of Big West unbeatens. UCSB was in control from the opening tip and raced out to an 11-3 lead after the first three minutes. Santa Barbara went on to convert seven of its first 13 shots and led by as many as 13 points in the first period. The Gauchos scored the first four points of the second to build on their 35-25 halftime lead and used a decisive 13-4 run to pull away (54-38) with 8:39 remaining after Cal Poly had trimmed the deficit to seven. UCSB took its biggest lead at 75-55 with 12 seconds remaining before a Mustang triple just before the horn closed out the scoring. Ashlee Brown and Lauren Pedersen posted career-highs to lead four Gauchos in double figures, finishing with 15 and 13 points, respectively. Santa Barbara shot 47.9% for the game, while Cal Poly finished at 35.7%. The Gauchos held a 36-31 advantage on the glass and won the turnover battle, 20-17. UCSB improved to 4-0 when four or more players reach double figures this season and won for for the 11th time in the last 12 games played in the Mustang's Mott Gym.

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 425-198 (.682) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 523-312 (.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 - Averaging 12.0 points and 3.7 assists over the last three games.
G - Lauren Pedersen - Scored a career-high 13 points and dished out 4 assists at Cal Poy.
G - Jessica Wilson - Leads the team averaging 11.4 points and 5.6 rebounds this season.
F - Whitney Warren - Has five games with at least six rebounds in 2007-08.
F - Kat Suderman - Averaging a team-high 15.4 points per game in Big West play.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Missed Saturday's game with a neck injury.
G - Meagan Williams - Leads UCSB shooting 51.3% overall, 40.7% from three-point range.
G - Ariana Gnekow - Finished with 2 rebounds and a steal in 14 minutes vs. Mustangs.
F - Ashlee Brown - Was a perfect 6-for-6 and scored a career-best 15 points Saturday.
F - Jordan Franey - Averaging 12.8 minutes in Big West games.
F - Margaret Johnson - Played just two minutes at Cal Poly after returning from a head injury.
C - Jessie Goble - Did not play Saturday against Mustangs.

Road Warriors
While the Gauchos' 4-2 (.667) home record is slightly better than their 5-3 (.625) mark on the road, UCSB has been a much better team when playing outside of Santa Barbara this season, statistically speaking. In terms of scoring, the Gauchos are averaging 72.1 points per game in their eight road contests, compared to just 65.0 in six games in the Thunderdome. UCSB has also struggled to shoot the ball at home, shooting just 37% overall and 26.2% from behind the three-point line in the T-Dome, while shooting a much more effective 45.5% overall and 37.2% from distance in opposing gyms. The Gauchos have played at home just three times in their last 11 games, but have gone 8-3 over that span. Four of UCSB's victories during the current six-game winning streak have come on the road. The Gauchos are certainly comfortable playing away from home heading into this week's NorCal trip.

Quick Hits
UCSB improved to 8-0 when leading at halftime this season after Saturday's win at Cal Poly...The Gauchos are 2-6 when trailing at intermission...Santa Barbara has shot better than 40% from the field in six of its last seven games...The Gauchos finished at 47.9% (23-48) against the Mustangs, their third-highest performance in 2007-08...UCSB has held three of its five conference opponents to under 60 points, improving to 3-0 when that happens...Santa Barbara is shooting 44.7% from the field and averaging 73.6 points per game in Big West play, compared to 41.6% and an average of 68.6 points per game overall this season.

Scouting the Mustangs
• The Gauchos will face another critical test this Thursday when they take on the Big West's newest member, UC Davis. UCSB leads the all-time series 8-2 after sweeping both meetings with the Aggies in 2006-07. Santa Barbara defeated Davis 77-53 at the Pavilion Jan. 13 and then scored a season-high 90 points in a 90-64 rout of the Aggies on Feb. 3 in the Thunderdome. Chisa Ononiwu scored a game-high 20 points in each game to lead UCSB. The two teams made history in the second meeting last year, combining to convert 40-of-42 free-throws, 95.2%, which stands as the best combined percentage in a single game on record at the Division I, II, or III level.

• Head coach Sandy Simpson is in his 11th year at the helm and brings back four starters from least year's squad that finished with an overall record of 13-16 and went 8-8 against Big West teams.

• UC Davis enters Thursday's match-up with an overall record of 10-7 and a 4-1 conference mark after defeating Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine on the road last week. The Aggies lost 68-57at UC Riverside to open Big West play but have been perfect since, winning their last four games by an average of nearly 18 points. Davis ranks fifth in the Big West averaging 67.3 points per game, while giving up a mere 56.2, a figure that ranks second. Senior guard Jessica Campbell has started every game this season and leads the team averaging 15.3 points to go with 4.6 rebounds. She is shooting a very impressive 55.2% from the field. Junior guard Haylee Donaghe is Davis' other player averaging double figures at 13.3 points per game, while hauling in 4.2 boards. She leads the team with 46 steals. The Aggies have been excellent at home so far this season, posting a record of 5-1.

Rock Steady
A week removed from her fourth career Big West Conference Player of the Week award after averaging 15 points and eight rebounds in the Gauchos' league wins over UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton, senior Jessica Wilson played a key role in UCSB's impressive victory over Cal Poly on Saturday, as well. While she struggled from the floor, shooting just 3-13 overall for just nine points, the guard had a solid all-around game in the absence of fellow senior Chisa Ononiwu, who was sitting out with a sore back. Wilson was 1-of-2 from three-point territory and 2-of-2 at the foul line and tallied five rebounds, a season-high six assists, and two steals in 34 minutes, also a high this season. The six helpers was Wilson's highest total since she dished out nine in the Gauchos' win over Cal State Fullerton in the semifinals of last year's Big West Tournament. For the season, the Sacramento, Calif. native leads the team averaging 11.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and is third dishing out 2.6 assists. She has been very impressive from the field in 2007-08, shooting 46.3%, which ranks fourth on the team. Wilson is averaging 13.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in Big West play.

Kat Tales
Kat Suderman had a solid effort in her return to her hometown of San Luis Obispo, helping UCSB claim sole possession of the top spot in the Big West standings with the win over Cal Poly. The junior forward/center finished with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting to reach double figures for the ninth time in the last 10 games. She also tallied a game-high six rebounds and a career-best three steals in the Gauchos' sixth consecutive victory. On the season, Suderman ranks second on the squad averaging 10.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and ranks third in field goal percentage, shooting 46.5% from the floor. The 6-foot-4 forward is averaging 13.8 points over the last 10 games and leads the Gauchos averaging 15.4 points in Big West games.

What Can Brown Do For You?
Freshman forward Ashlee Brown was excellent against Cal Poly last weekend, finishing with a game-high 15 points in just 15 minutes of action off the bench. She was a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor and 3-of-4 at the free-throw line on the way to a new career-high. The native of Chandler, Ariz. easily surpassed her previous high of 10 points that came in the Gauchos' 70-62 win at Long Beach State on Jan. 3. Brown leads UCSB's freshmen in virtually every category this season, including points per game (5.4), rebounds per game (3.4), assists per game (0.8), and minutes per game (14.1). Through 16 games, she is shooting 50.7% from the field, which ranks second on the team. In conference play, Brown is averaging 8.4 points and 3.2 rebounds, while shooting a team-high 76.2% from the field.

Pedersen's Prowess
With Chisa Ononiwu out, Lauren Pedersen started at the two spot for the second time this season on Saturday and proved that she can get it done at that position once again. The junior guard was 3-of-6 from the field, including 2-of-3 from behind the arc for a career-best 13 points. Pedersen also finished with three rebounds, four assists, and two steals in a career-high 31 minutes. The transfer from UCLA first got the nod at the two against Ole Miss on Dec. 29 and finished with a then-career-high 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting to help lead UCSB to the 74-66 victory -- the first of the Gauchos' current six-game winning streak. For the season, Pedersen is averaging 5.4 points, 2.3 rebounds, and leads the team dishing out 3.3 assists. In Big West play, her numbers jump up to 7.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, and 4.8 apg.

Wilson Watch
Senior guard Jessica Wilson enters Thursday's clash with UC Davis just 44 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 182 through 16 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.