Feb. 2, 2006
Game 19 Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006 2:00 p.m. San Luis Obispo, CA
UC Santa Barbara at Cal Poly Mott Gymnasium (3,032)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
10-8 overall/5-2 Big West Conference
7-2 home/3-6 away/0-0 neutral
Following 0-6 Road Start, Gauchos Have Won Last Three Away from Home
Just two week after suffering its first loss at home to Cal Poly in over 22 years, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team has a chance for revenge when it travels to San Luis Obispo, Calif., on Saturday, Feb. 4. Tip-off between the Gauchos and Mustangs (10-7 overall, 5-2 in Big West Conference play) is slated for 2:00 p.m. in Mott Gymnasium. The two longtime Central Coast rivals enter this week tied for second place in the Big West standings, two-games behind undefeated Long Beach State. After losing its first six road contests of 2005-06, Santa Barbara has won three straight away from home as it reaches the midpoint of a season-long five-game road swing on Saturday.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
The UCSB-CP showdown will air live on KTMS 990 AM with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and "$1.98" Don Ford providing color commentary. In addition, KCSB 91.9FM is making the trip to San Luis Obispo and will provide live coverage as well courtesy of Rob Garcia and Tiffany Polver. 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 Saturday's games via a subscription service; click on www.bigwest.org/tv to access the webcast.
UCSB Squeaks Out Road Wins at Cal State Northridge and Pacific
After not playing a single game this season decided by five or fewer points, the Gauchos won a pair of league contests last week by a combined margin of five, both of which went down to the wire. On Thursday, Jan. 26, UCSB rallied from a five-point halftime deficit at Cal State Northridge to pull out a 54-51 win, and saw a potential game-tying three-pointer by the Matadors draw iron at the buzzer. Santa Barbara opened the final period on an 8-2 run, although CSUN eventually retook the lead at 41-40 with 8:34 to play. That would prove to be the home team's final basket of the night, and the Gauchos pulled ahead for good despite repeatedly sending Northridge to the free-throw line down the stretch. The visitors notched a season-high 16 steals during the come-from-behind win. Two days later, the Gauchos found themselves in another dogfight at Pacific and again prevailed, 64-62. UCSB appeared to have a comfortable lead at 61-54 with 4:35 to play, but Tiger guard Kelsey Lavender single handedly rallied her squad with back-to-back three-pointers. The second trifecta put Pacific ahead 62-61 at the 1:35 mark, but the home team would not score again. Whitney Warren calmly sunk two free throws and Karena Bonds added another as Santa Barbara re-took the lead, while the Gauchos watched Lavender's game-tying jumper rim out as the final horn sounded.
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 156-11 (.934) 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 390-172 (.694) and an overall mark of 488-286 (.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 are tied for fifth in the Big West #33 Jenna Green So. C Double-digit scorer in 16 of 18 games this season #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Seven steals at CSUN were most by a Gaucho in seven years #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Scored a career-high 18 points in win over Pacific #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Averaging just 1.4 assists, 3.7 turnovers in Big West play
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Sunk go-ahead free-throws with 1:04 to play at UOP #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Has entered the scoring column in each of last three games #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Sixth in Big West with a 38.0% three-point percentage #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Averaging 8.0 points, 2.0 assists over last two games #34 Autumn Nichols Sr. F Will likely miss second straight game with back injury #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Started first game as a collegian at Cal State Northridge
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
After squeaking out a pair of road wins last week, the Gauchos were once again reminded that their best basketball of 2005-06 has been played within the friendly confines of the Thunderdome. UCSB is averaging 72.2 points and 42.9% shooting during its nine home games compared to just 56.2 points and a 34.2% field goal mark in an equal number of 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. Nine of UCSB's last 10 opponents have shot below 40%, with Cal State Northridge's 26.7% performance last Thursday being the most woeful on the season. During that span, UCSB foes are connecting at a collective 35.0% clip (211-of-603), although on Saturday Pacific shot a respectable 42.6%. The Gauchos are playing a more aggressive brand of defense this year, already posting double-digit steals nine times - including a season-high 16 at CSUN - 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 and continued over the three ensuing games. While Santa Barbara committed fewer blunders than both opponents on its recent road trip, the Gauchos have averaged a whopping 23.2 turnovers over their last five outings, posting their three worst totals of the season during that span. After leading the Big West in assist-to-turnover ratio for the first two months of the season, UCSB has dipped to fifth at 0.71.
Cal Poly followed up its big win at UCSB two weeks ago with a resounding 87-53 loss at Pacific on Jan. 26, but salvaged its road trip by defeating Cal State Northridge 83-53 last Saturday. The Mustangs - who are just one win shy of their entire 2004-05 victory total - feature a balanced attack led by junior Jessica Eggelston's 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. On Jan. 21 Cal Poly ended an eight-game losing streak at the hands of the Gauchos and won in Santa Barbara for the first time since December of 1983 with its 81-72 triumph in the Thunderdome. The visitors held UCSB without a field goal for over eight minutes to open the game and led virtually wire-to-wire, forcing a season-high 29 Gaucho turnovers in the process. Senior Michelle Henke paced the Mustangs' offense with 21 points in the win, while Santa Barbara sophomore Jessica led all scorers with 22. Despite the setback - just the third home defeat for UCSB in Big West play since 1996 - the Gauchos still lead the all-time series by a commanding 40-13 margin.
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 during the previous meeting with 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. Green has led or tied for the team scoring lead on 10 occasions this year, showing why she was an obvious choice for the Preseason All-Big West Team. 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 (51.7%) and rebounding (7.6) marks are third while she also owns a blocks per game mark of 1.33 that is fourth-highest. Green is the only Gaucho currently making over half her shots, although her shooting percentage 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 two other occasions. One of those was last Thursday in Northridge, where she amassed 15 points, seven rebounds as well as seven steals, the most by a Gaucho since Erin Buescher nabbed nine on Jan. 17, 1999. 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 seventh-highest rebounding average at 5.9 per tilt. Her team-leading 2.44 steals and 2.75 assists per game rank second and eighth in the league, respectively.
Kat in the Hat
With Autumn Nichols likely sidelined again this week, sophomore post player Kat Suderman will be counted on to start in her place, although the San Luis Obispo, Calif., native 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. Suderman currently owns a 6.3 rebounds per game average that is fifth-best in the Big West. Suderman rebounded from a recent string of 11 consecutive missed shots to post 10 points in a career-high 34 minutes of action at Pacific, her fifth double-digit effort of 2005-06.
Bonds, Karena Bonds
UCSB fifth-year senior guard Karena Bonds has been a jack-of-all trades, ranking second in the Big West in free-throw percentage (82.0%), sixth in steals (2.00) and 10th in assists (2.67). She has proven to be the Gauchos' best ball-handler with a 1.43 assist-to-turnover ratio (40 vs. 28), and on Saturday added the title of "dynamic scorer" to her resume with a career-high 18 points at Pacific. The Morro Bay, Calif., native - who recently missed three straight games with an ankle injury - buried three-of-four three-pointers and seven-of-eight free-throws in the narrow win, including one with just 11 seconds to play. Bonds also played a spirited game on Nov. 28 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 to play their final two non-conference games of the regular season next week in Northern California. UCSB renews a long-standing rivalry with Stanford - currently ranked 15th nationally - on Thursday, Feb. 7 before playing at future Big West member UC Davis two days later.