Conference Play Heats Up For UCSB With Two on the Road

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Feb. 7, 2007

The Schedule
Game No. 23
Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at UC Irvine Anteaters
Bren Events Center (5,000)

Game No. 24
Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 5:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Long Beach State 49ers
Walter Pyramid (5,000)

This Week
With its 2006-07 non-conference slate completed, UC Santa Barbara enters the Big West Conference stretch run with two games on the road this week. UCSB will play at UC Irvine Thursday, Feb. 8 with tip-off scheduled for 7:00 p.m and then head up the 405 for a showdown with defending co-champion Long Beach State Saturday evening at 5:00 p.m. The Gauchos defeated both squads earlier this season, posting an 11-point win over the 49ers before handing the Anteaters a 19-point loss two days later.

The Gaucho Record
The Gauchos enter Thursday's match-up with Irvine with an overall record of 12-10 after going 1-1 for the second consecutive week. UCSB battled No. 8 Stanford for much of the first half last Thursday, but a crushing 32-0 Cardinal run put the game away and the Gauchos ultimately fell 84-59. The team quickly put that performance behind them as the offense turned in a season-high in a convincing 90-64 win over future Big West member UC Davis Saturday. Currently third place in the Big West Conference standings at 5-2, UCSB has won eight of its last 10 games over the last five weeks. The Gauchos are 5-3 on the road this season.

UCSB on the Air & Web
This week's match-ups with the Anteaters and 49ers will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Steve Wendt is in his third year as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos and will have the call alongside Yours Truly, who will attempt to handle the color commentary. Broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". Fans can also catch all games live via the internet by going to and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass". With this option hoops fans can enjoy live audio and video from the comfort of their homes courtesy of CSTV.

Offense Out-Duels UC Davis In 90-64 Win
After last Thursday's loss to eighth-ranked Stanford featured a span of 9:40 in which the Gauchos did not score a point, the UCSB offense turned it around in a 90-64 win over UC Davis on Saturday. The Gauchos finished 29-of-59 from the field, 49.2% and shot 47.4% (9-19) from beyond the three-point arc. Santa Barbara's most impressive statistic however, came at the free-throw line, where the team finished a perfect 23-of-23. A week after setting two school records for three-point shooting in the Jan. 27 win over Pacific, UCSB eclipsed the all-time mark for single game free-throw percentage of 95.2% with its performance on Saturday. The previous record was set when the Gauchos made 20-of-21 tries at the charity stripe in a game against UC Irvine January 30, 1999. Santa Barbara's total of 90 points was also a season-high, erasing the 89 points the team put up against UOP. Chisa Ononiwu led all scorers with 20 points and hauled in a career-high nine rebounds to lead five Gauchos in double-figures. Jenna Green, who struggled in her previous two outings against Davis, got going early and made 6-of-10 shots for 17 points to go with five rebounds. Jordan Franey bounced back from an 0-for-8 performance in the loss to the Cardinal with 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting coming off the bench, while LaShay Fears scored 12 and tied a career mark with seven assists, and Jessica Wilson finished with 11 points after missing Thursday's game with a concussion.

Gauchos, Aggies Set New Division I Record...Sort Of
While the Gauchos set a new school record at the free-throw line converting all 23 attempts on Saturday, they weren't the only ones shooting the ball well at the charity stripe. UC Davis finished 17-of-19 from the foul line and, combinined with UCSB, the two teams made 40-of-42 free-throws, 95.2%. That is the best combined percentage in a single game on record at the Division I, II, or III level. If it were not for the fact that UC Davis is in transition from Division II to Division I, the feat would go down as a new Division I record, eclipsing the previous mark set when North Carolina State and Georgia Tech made a combined 35-of-37 (94.6%) on Jan. 3 1985. With Santa Barbara shooting just 67.3% at the line entering Saturday's contest and Davis just a shade better at 70.3%, it was definitely impressive to see a game where the first miss at the foul line didn't come until the 6:44 mark of the second half.

Mr. 500
Mark French returned to his alma mater at the start of the 1987-88 season and women's basketball at UC Santa Barbara has never been the same. Now in his 20th season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 408-188 (.685) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 506-302 (.626). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 15 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 two 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 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. 2006-07 has been a year of milestones thus far, as French collected his 400th win at UCSB when the Gauchos defeated Pepperdine 78-67 Dec. 18. Less than three weeks later, he added another notch on his belt, winnnig his 500th career game as a head coach with UCSB's victory over Long Beach State Jan. 4.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - LaShay Fears - Tied a career-high with seven assists in the win over UC Davis.
G - Jessica Wilson - Finished 3-of-5 for 11 points against Aggies after missing Stanford game.
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Led Gauchos in scoring in two of the last three games.
F - Whitney Warren - Recorded a career-best four steals against the Cardinal.
C - Jenna Green - Scored 17 points vs. Davis Saturday after averaging 6.7 in previous three meetings.

Probable Reserves - Notes
F - Jordan Franey - Was 4-of-6, including 2-for-3 from distance for 14 points in win over Aggies.
G - Meagan Williams - Shot 50% (5-of-10) in two games last week.
G/F - Ariana Gnekow - Earned third-career start against Davis, first since Dec. 9 vs. LMU.
C - Jessica Goble - Played a career-high nine minutes in the loss to Stanford.
F - Ashley Hall - Grabbed two rebounds in two minutes Saturday.

Injury Report - Notes
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Out indefinitely with right knee injury.

Attacking On All Fronts
With the UCSB offense really clicking over the past month, it is no surprise that the team has found a collective balance in terms of scoring in 2006-07. Six different Gauchos have led the squad in scoring this season, a very impressive stat considering the Santa Barbara coaching staff has had an active roster of 10 players or less in virtually every contest. Jenna Green has shouldered most of the load, leading the way 12 times, Jessica Wilson has done so four times, Chisa Ononiwu has had top billing on three occasions, and LaShay Fears, Whitney Warren, and Jordan Franey have all been the squad's top scorer once this year. While there is no question that Green, Wilson, and Ononiwu do most of the scoring, any one of the "Big Three" is capable of carrying the team offensively on any given night. A member of that trio has lead the way in each of the last seven contests, but not once in consecutive games during that span.

Ball Control
Another area the Gauchos have improved recently is the turnover department. While UCSB is averaging over 18 turnovers per game this season, they are third in the Big West Conference with a 0.95 turnover margin. Santa Barbara has given the ball away an average of under 17 times per contest over the last four -- including 14 against UC Davis Saturday which was one of the team's season low -- and has had fewer turnovers than their opponent in five of the last seven. UCSB has gone 5-2 over that span and, oddly enough, the Gauchos have a better record this season when they have more turnovers than their opponent. Santa Barbara is just 4-7 when winning the turnover battle and 7-2 when the opponent has fewer turnovers. Go figure!

A Strong Finish?
With seven regular season games remaining on the schedule and all of them in conference play, the Gauchos need to finish strong heading into the Big West Tournament. In 2005-06, UCSB went 4-3 in their final seven but won four of its final five. Two years ago Santa Barbara streaked to the finish line, winning its final eight regual season contests before going on to win a ninth consecutive Big West Tourney title.

Scouting the Anteaters
• Santa Barbara resumes Big West play at UC Irvine Thursday night in the 47th meeting between the two schools. UCSB holds a 44-22 advantage over UCI all-time after soundly defeating the Anteaters Jan. 6 in the Thunderdome. Jessica Wilson had a brilliant all-around game, finishing with 15 points and a career-high 12 assists to lead five players in double figures as the Gauchos posted an 86-67 victory. UCSB shot 54.4% from the floor in the win, the team's second-highest percentage of the year.

• UCI enters Thursday's match-up with a 6-17 overall record and 3-6 mark in conference play following an 80-63 loss at Cal State Northridge Saturday. The Anteaters have not played at home since Jan. 13 and have lost four of their last five. As a team, UCI averages 63.7 points per game, while its opponents put up 70.7 per contest. The Anteaters have been out-rebounded by the opposition by a 43.3 to 35.8 margin and shoot 36.6% from the field to their opposition's mark of 44.8%. Senior guard Angie Ned leads three players who average double figures at 14.3 points per game with forwards Stephanie Duda and Kelly Cochran and not far behind at 12.8 and 12.4, respectively. Duda is also the Big West's leading rebounder at 11.1 per game this season and shoots a team-high 44.3% from the floor.

Green Machine
Junior center Jenna Green leads UCSB averaging 15.5 points and 7.2 rebounds and has recorded a team-high 35 blocked shots in 2006-07. The San Jose, Calif. native also leads the squad shooting 52% from the floor and has scored in double-figures in all but two games this season. As far as Big West statistics go, Green ranks second in the conference in field goal percentage and blocks, third in scoring, and seventh in rebounding. The Gauchos' team captain had a pair of solid efforts last week in the loss to No. 8 Stanford and the convincing win over UC Davis. Green finished an impressive 7-of-11 from the floor for a team-high 14 points against taller Cardinal defenders to go with four rebounds and two blocks. In Saturday's contest, the Aggies could hold her down no longer, as the center tallied 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting after UC Davis limited her to just eight points Jan. 13 at their place. Green scored a total of just 12 points in two games against the Aggies in 2005-06. She also hauled in five boards, dished out two assists, blocked two shots, and recorded a steal in the win. Green has shot 54% over the last seven contests.

(J) Rock Star
Jessica Wilson has certainly been a player to watch this season and she has been exceptional the last few weeks. After missing last Thursday's loss to Stanford with a concussion, Wilson returned to the lineup against UC Davis two days later. The Sacramento, Calif. native made 3-of-5 shots and finished with 11 points in 27 minutes off the bench. Wilson also pulled down five rebounds -- four offensive -- dished out two assists, and recorded three steals. The Big West Conference's assist leader at 4.30 per night, Wilson has greatly improved her game in that department this season. After leading the team in assists in 2005-06 averaging 2.56 per contest, the junior has nearly doubled her average this season. She is third on the team in scoring at 13.3 ppg and second in rebounding averaging 5.8 per game. Wilson leads the squad averaging just under two steals per contest. The guard ranks 12th in the BWC in scoring and rebounding and second in steals.

And Now You Know
Before transfer Chisa Ononiwu was eligible to play this season, very few people were aware just how good she would be. Ononiwu has painted a pretty clear picture since that time. She led the team in scoring with 20 points against UC Davis a week after establinging a new career mark with 29 in the win over Pacific. Ononiwu, who also grabbed a career-high nine rebounds against the Aggies, has led the Gauchos in shots taken in each of the last three games. She has scored in double figures in nine straight and 11 of 13 overall since becoming eligible Dec. 18. The Houston, Tex. native is second on the team averaging 13.7 points and fourth hauling in 4.9 rebounds per night. More impressive is the fact that Ononiwu leads UCSB in three-point shooting at 48.1% (20-46). The Gauchos have proven to be a much better team with No. 3 in the lineup this season, posting a 9-4 record in Ononiwu's 13 games compared to a mark of just 3-6 without her.

Like A Veteran
Freshman Forward Jordan Franey has started 17 games this season and is averaging 9.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 26.2 minutes per game. The San Diego native has proven to be one of the conference's top three-point shooters, ranking fifth with 35 triples in 2006-07. The San Diego native has scored in double figures a total of 12 times this year, including five of the last seven and bounced back from a rough outing against Stanford with a excellent shooting performance against UC Davis. Franey made 4-of-6 shots overall and knocked down 2-of-3 attempts from three-point territory for 14 points in 22 minutes off the bench. She also secured three rebounds, two assists, and a steal. Franey is fourth on the team in scoring this season and leads the UCSB freshman in a number of statistical categories, including points, free-throw percentage, assists, and minutes per game.

The Warren Court
Whitney Warren has been one of the Gauchos' more reliable defenders in 2005-06 and has continued to develop on the offense end as the season has progressed. Warren had a great game against high-powered and eighth-ranked Stanford last Thursday, making 6-of-11 shots from the floor for 13 points. In fact, at one point during an 8-0 Gaucho run late in the first half, the native of Lawndale, Calif. scored seven of the eight points to pull UCSB within three at 30-27. Warren also tallied four rebounds and a career-high four steals in 28 minutes. After starting just five games as a freshman a year ago, Warren has played in 21 games this season and has started 20 of those. She has scored in double figures on six occasions, including two of the last three games. Warren is fifth on the team averaging eight points, third averaging 5.1 rebounds, and her season shooting percentage of 45.4% also ranks third.

UCSB Lands Three Prized Recruits
On Wednesday, November 8, UCSB announced the signing of three high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during this year's early signing period. Ashlee Brown, a 6'0" forward from Good Year, Ariz., a 5'11" guard Courtney Collishaw of Visalia, Calif., and Margaret Johnson, a 5'11" forward from Lake Oswego, Ore. will join the Gauchos next season as true freshmen. Brown was named to the 2005-06 Arizona Tribune First Team and garnered First Team All-Fiesta Region accolades after averaging 21 points, 16 rebounds, five steals, four assists, and three blocked shots per game as a junior at Chandler High School. Collishaw signs with UCSB after earning Cal-Hi Sports All-State Junior Second Team honors at Redwood High School. She was named to the CIF Central Section First Team after scoring 22.6 points per game a year ago. Johnson enters her final season at Lake Oswego High School having guided the team to a second place league finish in 2006 at 10-4 and an 18-8 overall record. In 2007-08 Santa Barbara will also gain the services of 5'10" guard Lauren Pedersen, a junior transfer from UCLA. A native of Brea, Calif., she played two seasons with the Bruins, averaging 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in 54 career games while making 11 starts during that span. Pedersen will have two years of eligibility at UCSB starting next season.

Gauchos Look To Start Streaking
2005-06 was a very disappointing year by UCSB standards. Finishing just 16-14 last season and losing in the WNIT First Round, Coach French and the Gauchos had a number of streaks broken that they will be looking to reestablish this year. UCSB saw its streak of nine consecutive Big West Tournament titles come to a crashing halt after a narrow loss to UC Riverside in the title game. That being said, Santa Barbara did not receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and its string of nine-straight trips to the Big Dance was also severed. With a total of 16 victories, UCSB saw its span of 10 seasons with at least 20 wins broken, as well. Finally, although the Gauchos did win the Big West regular season title, they shared the honor with Long Beach State, which snapped their streak of 10-straight outright conference championships--a run that was the longest in the nation. Needless to say, UCSB will aim to start a new set of streaks in 2006-07.

O'Bryan, Thomas Leave UCSB
On October 17, head coach Mark French announced that two key players would not be with the Gauchos in 2006-07. Guard Erin O'Bryan and forward Shantel Thomas both left the program citing personal reasons. O'Bryan, who appeared in 27 games for UCSB last season, averaging 6.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, will not be back for her senior season. Thomas, on the other hand, is expected to return at some point, provided she maintains her eligibility. The Sacramento, Calif. native appeared in 25 games as a true freshman in 2005-06, averaging 2.5 ppg and 2.6 rpg in 11.2 minutes per contest.

Another Blow...
Less than a month later, the coaching staff was dealt more bad news when the decision was made that Kat Suderman will redshirt in 2006-07. The San Luis Obispo, Calif. native will be inactive this season as she rehabilitates from a knee surgery she had last spring. Suderman was one of only two players to appear in all 30 games last season, starting eight games for UCSB. She posted career-highs averaging 6.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game. Over the past two seasons, Suderman has appeared in a combined 56 games, more than any other Gaucho over that span.

Looking Ahead
After this week's contests at UC Irvine and Long Beach State, UCSB returns home to the Thunderdome to take on Cal Poly Saturday, February 17 in its only game of the week. As usual, tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 p.m.