Gauchos Travel Near and Far for Two-Game Big West Roadtrip
Jan. 24, 2006
Game 17 Thursday, Jan. 26, 2006 7:00 p.m. Northridge, CA
UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Northridge The Matadome (1,600)
Game 18 Saturday, Jan. 28, 2006 3:00 p.m. Stockton, CA
UC Santa Barbara at Pacific Alex G. Spanos Center (6,150)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
8-8 overall/3-2 Big West Conference
7-2 home/1-6 away/0-0 neutral
Gauchos Are Currently Third in the Big West Entering Long Road Swing
After playing seven of its last nine contests at home, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team begins a season-long five-game road swing on Thursday, Jan. 26 at Cal State Northridge (5-12 overall, 2-3 in Big West Conference play). Tip-off is slated for 7:00 p.m. in the Matadome. Two days later, the Gauchos will find them selves in the Alex G. Spanos Center for a 3:00 p.m. league battle with Pacific (4-13, 1-4). Following a stretch in which it won 45 straight games against current Big West members, UCSB has dropped two of its last three conference contests and presently sits in third place in the league standings.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
Thursday's Gaucho-Matador showdown will air live on KTLK 1340AM with "Showtime Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and former UCSB assistant coach Kristen Koch providing color commentary. Wendt will be joined by Ben Alkaly at Pacific, and the dynamic announcing duo moves down the dial to KTMS 990AM. Both broadcasts begins 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". All of Santa Barbara's games in 2005-06 can also be heard live via the internet by pointing your browser to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass". Meanwhile the Big West Conference will offer live video streaming of both games via a subscription service; click on www.bigwest.org/tv to access the webcasts.
UCSB Suffers Rare Big West Loss at Home, Falling to Cal Poly 82-71
For just the third time since their run of regular season Big West titles began in 1995-96, the Gauchos lost a conference home game, falling to Cal Poly 82-71 on Saturday, Jan. 21 in the Thunderdome. The visiting Mustangs (9-6, 4-1) held UCSB without a field goal for over eight minutes to open the game, building an early 18-7 lead following Michelle Henke's trifecta and then held a 49-37 advantage at intermission. The home team pulled within 59-52 midway through the final period when sophomore Jessica Wilson scored on an acrobatic layup, but Cal Poly tallied the next seven points to push their lead back into double-figures. Trailing by 14 points with under four minutes to play, Santa Barbara attempted one last rally, embarking on a quick 8-0 spurt ignited by junior Erin O'Bryan's only three-pointer of the afternoon. The run pulled UCSB within 71-65 at the 3:08 mark, but a pair free-throws and yet another "trey" by Henke sealed the Mustangs' first victory in Santa Barbara since Dec. 15, 1983. The Gauchos also saw their seven-game home winning streak snapped.
Santa Barbara's decade-long dominance of the Big West ranks as the longest current streak of outright conference championships in the entire nation. Louisiana Tech has captured 13 straight league titles - split between the Sun Belt and Western Athletic Conferences - but has shared top honors with other schools three times during its run. Meanwhile the Gauchos have never finished fewer than two games ahead of the pack, posting a 154-11 (.933) league record since 1995-96.
UC Santa Barbara alumnus Mark French is in his 19th season as head coach of the Gauchos and the 27th year of his immensely successful career. He currently owns a UCSB record of 388-172 (.693) and an overall mark of 486-286 (.630). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 14 years, French's Gauchos have won 11 Big West Conference titles and advanced to 11 NCAA Tournaments - including five second rounds and a Sweet 16 appearance - as well as one Postseason WNIT. 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 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.
Probable Starters Notes #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C 6.3 rebounds per game rank fifth in the Big West #33 Jenna Green So. C 18 points, personal best 13 boards vs. Cal Poly #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Career and game-high 22 points in Saturday's loss #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Missed last three games with ankle injury; probable vs. CSUN #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Averaging 8.3 points over last trio of contests
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Missed CP game after undergoing medical procedure #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Has scored a basket in each of the last two contests #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Career-best 23 points, seven three-pointers in UC Davis win #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Averaging 8.0 points, 2.0 assists over last two games #34 Autumn Nichols Sr. F Has multiple ailments; questionable for this week's games #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F 23 minutes played vs. UCD were her most on the season
The Gauchos opened 2005-06 receiving votes in both the ESPN/USA Today Top-25 Coaches' Poll and Associated Press Writers' Poll, but have subsequently dropped out of both. Meanwhile, if Big West Conference coaches and media members are accurate prognosticators, then the Gauchos will win their unprecedented 11th consecutive regular season conference title in 2005-06. In polls conducted Wednesday, Nov. 2 at the league's annual media day in Irvine, Calif., six of the eight coaches picked Santa Barbara to repeat yet again, while nine of 10 media members in attendance did the same. Long Beach State was tabbed second in both polls.
The Thunderdome...It's Good for What Ails Ya
There's no questioning that the Gauchos have played their best basketball of 2005-06 within the friendly confines of the Thunderdome. UCSB is averaging 72.2 points and 42.9% shooting in its nine home games compared to just 55.4 points and a 34.1% field goal mark over the course of seven road contests. Santa Barbara's highest point total since the 2002-03 campaign - 90 en route to a Dec. 17 upset of No. 24 UCLA - as well as six of its seven most efficient shooting efforts have all come in the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos have gotten defensive in recent weeks, and not as a result of their feelings being hurt. None of Santa Barbara's last eight opponents have cracked the 40% shooting plateau, with UC Davis' 28.3% performance on Feb. 15 being the most woeful on the season. During that span, UCSB foes are connecting at a collective 35.1% clip (169-of-482), although Cal Poly did its part to turn the tide by burying nine-of-21 three-point attempts Saturday. The Gauchos are playing a more aggressive brand of defense this year - already posting double-digit steals seven times after doing so on just eight occasions in all of 2004-05.
In a season of ups and downs, one constant through the first 12 games of 2005-06 was UCSB committing fewer turnovers than its opponent. However, that streak - which both excited and perplexed the Gaucho coaching staff - came to an end at Long Beach State where Santa Barbara coughed the ball up 15 times compared to 14 miscues by the home team. Instead of returning to form, UCSB has averaged a forgettable 25.0 blunders per game over the last three contests - including a season-high 29 in Saturday's loss to the Mustangs - committing more miscues than each opponent. After leading the Big West in assist-to-turnover ratio for virtually the entire season, UCSB has dipped to third at 0.74.
With two-time First Team All-Big West forward Ofa Tulikihihifo sidelined for the year with a foot injury, Cal State Northridge has struggled in 2005-06 and finds itself in fifth place in the conference. The Matadors have lost two straight, most recently a 79-68 decision at UC Davis last Saturday. Junior guard LaJoyce King leads a balanced CSUN attack at 10.7 points per game. UCSB won its three meetings with Northridge last season - including the semifinals of the Big West tourney - and can boast 14 straight victories in the all-time series, which the Gauchos now lead 24-10.
Pacific has endured the resignation of head coach Craig Jackson on Dec. 5 - replaced by Karen Weitz on an interim basis - and enters this week last in the eight-team Big West. The Tigers - who host Cal Poly on Thursday prior to UCSB's visit - are led by sophomore guard Kelsey Lavender's 11.9 points per game. Since being upset in Stockton on Jan. 18, 2003, the Gauchos have won six straight over Pacific and lead the all-time series 38-14.
The tallest Gaucho player has also been the team's most productive in 2005-06, and is showing little lingering effects of the torn left MCL that sidelined her nearly all of last season. Sophomore center Jenna Green has posted double-digit scoring totals all but twice - including two performances of 20-plus - and recorded her third career double-double in the form of 18 points and a personal best 13 rebounds Saturday vs. Cal Poly. She barely missed another double-dip in a Dec. 30 win over Pepperdine with 17 points and nine boards, leading to her first career Big West Player of the Week Award. The San Jose, Calif., native ranks among the top-five conference players in four major statistical categories, as her scoring average of 14.9 is second best, her field goal percentage (51.1%) and rebounding (7.9) marks are third while she also owns a blocks per game mark of 1.13 that is fifth-highest. Green is the only Gaucho currently making over half her shots, but has dipped below the 53.3% clip she posted en route to earning Big West All-Freshman honors in 2003-04.
If the Gauchos are to make a run at an 11th straight Big West title, they'll need a second consistent scoring option behind Green, and the most likely candidate appears to be sophomore Jessica Wilson. The Sacramento, Calif., native has exploded for 20-plus points three times - including a career-high 22 on Saturday after missing the previous game with an ankle injury - but only reached double-figures on one other occasion. Wilson earned Big West Player of the Week honors following her heroics against then-24th-ranked UCLA - which included a game-tying buzzer-beating basket and 11 points in overtime - and can also boast the league's eighth-highest rebounding average at 6.0 per tilt. Her 2.00 steals and 2.79 assists per game rank fourth in the league, respectively.
She Dropped the Bomb on Me
Erin appears to be a popular name for Gaucho three-point specialists, as junior guard Erin O'Bryan's seven trifectas en route to a career-high 23-point effort vs. UC Davis on Jan. 15 were one-shy of the single-game school record set by Erin Alexander during the 1996-97 campaign. She added another trifecta during Saturday's loss to move into a tie for seventh place on UCSB's career list with another Erin - Buescher - who drained 83 long-bombs as a Gaucho. O'Bryan also vaulted into second place on the Big West's leaderboard with an average of 2.43 "treys" per game, while her 39.1% connection rate from beyond the arc is fifth-best. The Gilbert, Ariz., native has already scored in double-figures seven times this season exceeding the total from her freshman and sophomore seasons combined.
Kat in the Hat
With Autumn Nichols possibly sidelined this week, sophomore post player Kat Suderman is expected to reappear in the UCSB starting lineup, although she has done her greatest damage to opponents this season while coming off the bench. On Jan. 9 at UC Irvine, she amassed her second career double-double in the form of a personal best 17 points and 13 boards, a rebounding total that is also equals the most by any Gaucho thus far in 2005-06. The San Luis Obispo, Calif., native currently owns a 6.3 rebounds per game average that is fifth-best in the Big West. On Thursday, Suderman will look to rebound from her only scoreless outing of the season as she missed all five shots during the loss to Cal Poly.
Bonds, Karena Bonds
The Gauchos have posted their two-highest turnover totals over the past three games, during which fifth-year senior guard Karena Bonds has been out of action nursing an ankle injury. Thus far in 2005-06 the Morro Bay, Calif., native has proven to be UCSB's best ball-handler with a 1.44 assist-to-turnover ratio (36 vs. 25) that is tops on the team. She has been a jack-of-all trades, ranking second in the Big West in free-throw percentage (81.0%), sixth in steals (1.92) and ninth in assists (2.77). Bonds played a spirited game at Weber State, recording 12 points and a personal best 10 rebounds for her first career double-double, most coming after UCSB was down to just seven healthy players.
Waiting in the Wings
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, UCSB announced the signing of two high school seniors to National Letters of Intent. Jordan Franey, a 6-0 forward from La Mesa, Calif., and Sacramento native Meagan Williams, a 5-10 guard, will join the Gauchos as true freshmen in 2006-07. Both were named to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Junior First Team last season, with Williams also earning Sacramento Bee 2005 Player of the Year acclaim. In 2006-07 Santa Barbara will also gain the services of a pair of junior transfers who helped Baylor capture the 2005 NCAA Championship. Emily Niemann, a 6-1 forward, scored 19 points in the national title game against Michigan State en route to Final Four All-Tournament acclaim. In her two-year BU career, the Houston native averaged 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and a school-record 45.1% three-point percentage. Meanwhile 5-7 guard Chisa Ononiwu began practicing with the Gauchos in January and becomes eligible to compete following fall 2006 academic quarter at UCSB. The Houston native averaged 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds in 13 games as a Lady Bear freshman in 2004-05.
Taylor-James Leaves UCSB
On Monday, Nov. 14, head coach Mark French announced that 6-0 sophomore swing player Brittanie Taylor-James had left the Gaucho program due to personal reasons. The Evanston, Ill., native finished the fall academic quarter and is now seeking a transfer. In 2004-05 she averaged 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 22 games played, with a career-high of eight scored against UC Irvine on March 3.
Doozy of a Schedule
In the annual quest to make their non-conference schedule one of the toughest in the nation, the Gauchos have once again succeeded in 2005-06. UCSB will play five games against teams which also reached the NCAA Tournament last year, including three straight to open the regular season. In addition to facing national runner-up Michigan State, a February showdown looms at Elite Eight participant Stanford. In addition, Santa Barbara hosted regional rivals UCLA and Pepperdine in the Thunderdome after not facing either school for more than a decade.
On the Horizon
The Gauchos remain on the road and will seek revenge when they play at Central Coast rival Cal Poly on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 2:00 p.m. UCSB wraps up its five-game road swing with its final two non-conference contests of 2005-05, beginning with a Thursday, Feb. 9 showdown with perennial power Stanford.