Feb. 7, 2006
Game 20 Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006 7:00 p.m. Stanford, CA
UC Santa Barbara at #14/14 Stanford Maples Pavilion (7,233)
Game 21 Saturday, Feb. 11, 2006 2:00 p.m. Davis, CA
UC Santa Barbara at UC Davis The Pavilion (7,000)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
11-8 overall/6-2 Big West Conference
7-2 home/4-6 away/0-0 neutral
Following 0-6 Road Start, Gauchos Have Won Last Four Away from Home
Having recently moved into sole possession of second place in the Big West Conference standings, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team takes a break from league play for a pair of games in Northern California this week. On Thursday, Feb. 9, the Gauchos will face their third nationally-ranked foe of the season as they travel to No. 14 Stanford (16-5 overall) for a 7:00 p.m. showdown in Maples Pavilion. Two days later, UCSB plays its final non-conference game of the 2005-06 regular season at future Big West member UC Davis (13-9 entering this week). Tip-off is slated for 2:00 p.m. in the Pavilion. After losing its first six road contests of 2005-06, Santa Barbara has won four straight away from home as it reaches the end of a season-long five-game road swing.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
The Gaucho-Cardinal clash will air live on KTMS 990AM with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and Ben Alkaly attempting color commentary. The dynamic announcing duo then moves up the dial to KTLK 1340 when UCSB plays at UC Davis. Both broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show", while 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". Finally, both of this week's opponents will provide live video streaming of their games against the Gauchos via separate subscription services; Stanford's is available at www.gostanford.com, while UC Davis webcasts as part of the Big West Conference's package accessible at www.bigwest.org/tv.
UCSB Avenges Loss to Cal Poly with 80-71 Road Triumph
After trailing Central Coast rival Cal Poly for three halves of play this season, the Gauchos finally had enough on Saturday, Feb. 4 and rallied for an 80-71 victory in Mott Gymnasium. Trailing 59-52 with under eight minutes to play, UCSB stormed back with a 9-0 run capped by Jessica Wilson's old-fashioned three-point play. at the 5:52 mark. However the visitors' celebration was short-lived as Cal Poly tallied the next four points, and the lead then changed hands twice more before UCSB senior guard Karena Bonds buried a three-pointer from the top of the key, putting her squad back on top at 66-65 with 3:24 remaining. That clutch basket keyed a dominating 9-0 spurt, while on the opposite end of the court the Mustangs were busy missing five straight shots and committing a pair of turnovers as Santa Barbara pulled away. Cal Poly pulled back within five points on two occasions, but UCSB nailed eight-of-10 free-throws within the final 1:05 to preserve the come-from-behind win and avenge a loss two weeks earlier in the Thunderdome.
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 157-11 (.935) 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 391-172 (.694) and an overall mark of 489-286 (.631). 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 6.2 rebounds per game are tied for seventh in Big West #33 Jenna Green So. C Double-digit scorer in 17 of 19 games this season #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Big West Conference leader at 2.47 steals per game #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Scored a personal best 18 points in win over Pacific #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G 16 of career-high-tying 20 points at CP came in second half
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Sunk go-ahead free-throws with 1:04 to play at UOP #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Averaging 7.2 minutes per game off the bench #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Sixth in Big West with a 38.0% three-point percentage #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Sunk four three-pointers Sat. to match career-high 12 points #34 Autumn Nichols Sr. F Will miss this week's road trip with a back injury #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Left ankle injury will keep her out of action at Stanford
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 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.
Not Quite Road Warriors, but Getting There
The Gauchos not only lost their first six road games of 2005-06, but did so by an average of 21.0 points per game and dropped a pair by 30-plus. In addition to shooting just 19.6% percent from the three-point line during that span, UCSB was being out-rebounded by 8.8 boards per game, just a year after ranking eighth nationally in the same category at +8.2. Well the tables have turned drastically in the Gauchos' last four games away from Santa Barbara, highlighted by an 80-point effort Saturday at Cal Poly that was their highest output since Dec. 19 and easily their best effort in Big West play.
The Gauchos have gotten defensive in recent weeks, and not as a result of their feelings being hurt. Ten of UCSB's last 11 opponents have shot below 40%, with Cal State Northridge's 26.7% performance on Jan. 26 being the most woeful on the season. Within that span, UCSB foes are connecting at a collective 35.3% clip (238-of-674). 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 came to a halt at Long Beach State, and instead of returning to form the Gauchos have averaged a whopping 23.3 miscues over their last six outings, posting their four 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 all the way to fifth at 0.71.
On the heels of back-to-back NCAA Tournament Elite Eight appearances, Stanford is enjoying another stellar season in 2005-06, currently leading the Pacific-10 Conference standings at 11-2. The Cardinal - led by All-American sophomore guard Candace Wiggins' 21.5 points per game - have won 10 of their last 11 games and most recently defeated Oregon State 87-54 last Saturday. This will be the first meeting between UCSB and Stanford since Nov. 17, 2001, when the Cardinal prevailed 87-64 at Maples Pavilion. Current Gaucho senior Karena Bonds played two minutes in that contest before redshirting the rest of the 2001-02 campaign. Stanford leads the all-time series 7-1, with Santa Barbara's lone win coming way back in 1977.
Since falling at UCSB 70-55 on Jan. 15, UC Davis has reeled off six straight wins entering a Thursday showdown at home with Cal Poly. The Aggies - who become members of the Big West in 2007-08 - have gone 8-2 against current conference schools, which would place them in a tie for first if they were officially in the league. Junior Jessica Campbell leads a balanced UCD attack at 12.0 points per game. The Gauchos - making their fist trip to Davis since 1979 - hold a 5-1 advantage in all-time series.
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 - leading the UCSB offense on 10 different occasions - and recorded her fourth career double-double in the form of 19 points and 12 rebounds during last Saturday's triumph at 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, validating her selection to the Preseason All-Big West Team. Green's scoring average (15.1 points) and field goal percentage (52.1%) are both second-best, while she ranks third in rebounding and fourth in blocks at 7.8 and 1.37 per game, respectively. Although Green has made 27-of-49 shots (55.1%) over the last five games, her overall field goal 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 in UCSB's first meeting of the year with Cal Poly - and has amassed double-figures on three other occasions. With 15 points and a personal best 13 rebounds at Cal Poly, Wilson enjoyed her second career double-double, while on Jan. 26 at Cal State Northridge she amassed 15 points and seven steals, the most swipes by a Gaucho since Erin Buescher nabbed nine on Jan. 17, 1999. She has since become the conference leader in steals at 2.47 per tilt, and also owns a rebounding average of 6.4 that is tied for fourth. 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 to force overtime and 11 points during the extra frame.
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 equals the most by any Gaucho thus far in 2005-06. Suderman currently owns a 6.2 rebounds per game average that is seventh-best in the Big West. Suderman rebounded from a recent string of 11 consecutive missed shots to post 10 points in 34 minutes of action at Pacific, and then saw a career-high 35 minutes of playing time at Cal Poly as UCSB was down to just two healthy post players.
Bonds, Karena Bonds
UCSB fifth-year senior guard Karena Bonds has been a jack-of-all trades, ranking third in the Big West in free-throw percentage (79.6%) and sixth in steals (1.94) and ninth in minutes played (30.2). She has proven to be the Gauchos' best ball-handler with a 1.34 assist-to-turnover ratio (43 vs. 32), and on Jan. 28 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 was again clutch last Saturday vs. the Mustangs by scoring the go-ahead three-pointer with 3:24 remaining.
After amassing 20 points in a Dec. 17 upset of UCLA, freshman point guard LaShay Fears went 10 straight games without reaching double-figures until matching that career-high total Saturday at CP, scoring 16 after halftime to spark a Gaucho rally. She buried 10-of-12 free-throws against the Mustangs and now ranks fifth in the Big West with a 77.6% mark from the charity stripe while also owning a steals per game mark of 1.63 that is ninth-best. The Palmdale, Calif., native has started all but one game as a rookie.
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
After going nearly four weeks without playing a home game, the Gauchos return to the Thunderdome on Thursday, Feb. 16 to host Big West rival UC Irvine at 7:00 p.m. Two days later, conference leader comes to town for a showdown that will air live at 5:00 p.m. on Fox Sports Net West 2. It will be UCSB's first regionally-televised home game in program history.