February 14, 2007

UCSB Looks To Keep Rolling At Home Against Cal Poly In Lone Game This Week

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Feb. 14, 2007

The Schedule
Game No. 25
Saturday, February 17, 2007 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Cal Poly Mustangs
The Thunderdome (6,000)

This Week
After two impressive road wins, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team returns to the Thunderdome for the first of its final three home contests of the 2006-07 regular season. UCSB will look to maintain its position in the Big West Conference standings against Cal Poly Saturday, Feb. 17 at 2:00 p.m. in its only game this week. The Gauchos defeated the Mustangs earlier this season, erasing a 12-point second half deficit to win 68-62 in San Luis Obispo Jan. 20. Cal Poly has not lost since.

The Gaucho Record
The Gauchos enter Saturday's contest with Central Coast rival Cal Poly with an overall record of 14-10 following a 2-0 Southern California road trip last week. UCSB improved to 7-3 away from the Thunderdome this season with an 81-71 victory at UC Irvine last Thursday before posting a convincing 69-55 win at Long Beach State Saturday. Currenty in second place in the Big West Conference standings at 7-2, UCSB has won 10 of its last 12 since Dec. 28. In fact, the Gauchos have not dropped consecutive games since they fell 69-45 at home to No. 20 Michigan State Dec. 20 followed by a 70-57 loss at UC Riverside in their conference opener eight days later.

UCSB on the Air & Web
This week's match-up with Cal Poly 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 former Los Angeles Laker and UCSB star Don Ford, who will 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 www.ucsbgauchos.com 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, Hot Shooting Key Wins Over Anteaters and 49ers
UCSB completed a sweep of UC Irvine and Long Beach State on the road last week and it was the Gaucho offense continuing to run like a well-oiled machine that was the key to both victories. Since Dec. 30, a span in which Santa Barbara has won 10 out of 12 games, the Gauchos have shot better than 45% from the field a total of seven times and better than 40% 10 times. That trend continued in the victories last week, with UCSB shooting 49.2% (32-65) against UCI and finishing 48.3% (28-58) in the contest with LBSU. The Gauchos contiuned to get a balanced scoring effort last week as well, with four players scoring in double figues in each contest. Santa Barbara is now 10-2 when that happens. Lastly, with point totals of 81 against the Anteaters and 69 in the win over the 49ers, UCSB is now averaging 76 points per game over the last 12, a figure that is up considerably from the team's season average of 69 per game.

Three Ball Takes Game Off, Gets Back on Track
One of the impressive things about UCSB's victory over UC Irvine last Thursday was the fact that the Gauchos put up 81 points without a single make from three-point territory. Less than two weeks after setting a school record finishing 14-of-18 from distance in the big win over Pacific, Santa Barbara went 0-for-4 against Irvine, snapping a streak of 47 consecutive games with at least one three-point basket. The last time UCSB went a game without hitting from downtown was Nov. 26, 2005 in a tough 72-39 loss at BYU. The Gauchos got right back on track two days later at Long Beach State, finishing 5-of-11 from behind the arc, 45.5%. Santa Barbara leads the Big West in three-point shooting during conference play in 2006-07 at a healthy 37.1%.

At Home on the Road
A big difference from the 2006-07 Gauchos and last year's squad is this team has found success on the road. UCSB has been impressive away from the Thunderdome this season, improving to 7-3 in true road games with wins at UCI and LBSU last week. The Gauchos have won five straight on the road and have far surpassed last year's mark of 5-10 outside of Santa Barbara. This statistic is even more impressive when you consider who UCSB has lost to this season. The Gauchos' three road losses were at then-ranked No. 23 UCLA, at reigning national champion and topped-ranked Maryland, and at defending Big West Tournament champs and league-leading UC Riverside. UCSB has two road games remaining this season.

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 410-188 (.686) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 508-302 (.627). 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 - Scored 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting in win over Long Beach State.
G - Jessica Wilson - Tallied 16 points and a game-high six assists at UC Irvine.
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Made 4-of-6 three-point attempts against 49ers, leads team shooting 45.3%.
F - Whitney Warren - Third on the squad shooting 45.3% from the floor this season.
C - Jenna Green - Tied a season-high with 23 points against the Anteaters, shot 60% for the week.

Probable Reserves - Notes
F - Jordan Franey - Was 4-of-8 for 10 points with a game-high seven rebounds at UCI.
G - Meagan Williams - Posted eight points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes in win over Irvine.
G/F - Ariana Gnekow - 0-for-2 in 13 minutes in Saturday's win at LBSU.
C - Jessica Goble - Recorded a steal and career-high two blocks in six minutes against 49ers.
F - Ashley Hall - Appeared in last four games for the Gauchos.
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Returned to the lineup vs. UCI after missing nine games with a knee injury.

Paint Ball
With one of the premiere post players on the West Coast in Jenna Green, you would think the Gauchos would be able to control the paint more often. The fact is UCSB has only three other players on their roster listed six feet or taller, but that didn't matter during last week's road trip as Santa Barbara outscored both UCI and LBSU in the paint. The Gauchos dominated the key area in the win at UC Irvine, outscoring the Anteaters by a 50-20 margin and then controlled the paint again Saturday against Long Beach State, holding a 32-24 advantage. Santa Barbara has outscored the opposition in the paint a total of nine times this season and is a perfect 9-0 in those games. UCSB is 5-10 when the opposition controls the middle.

Running Away From the Competition
It wasn't too long ago that we were talking about how so many of UCSB's games were coming down to the wire. Funny, how things change. At one point this season, six of eight games were decided by 10 points or less, but now the Gauchos have played in only three contests with a single-digit outcome in the last 12. With the exception of UCSB's victories at Cal State Fullerton (73-71) and Cal Poly (68-62), and the narrow two-point loss to Cal State Northridge, Santa Barbara has won its last eight games by an average margin of over 20 points. Even when you add the close calls against the Titans and Mustangs into the equation, UCSB has won its last 10 by an average of 17.4 points per game. Not only have the Gauchos gone 10-2 in their last 12, but they have defeated the opposition in convincing fashion during that span.

Big West Update
With only five regular season games remaining on the schedule, nothing is more important than the Big West standings at this point. After road wins at UC Irvine and Long Beach State, UCSB moved into second place in the conference standings at 7-2, one game behind UC Riverside at 8-1. Cal State Northridge is currently in third place with a 7-4 conference mark after dropping two last week, with Cal State Fullerton a half game back at 6-4. The Gauchos host UCR Feb. 24 and finish the regular season at CSUN Mar. 3 with the opportunity to avenge earlier losses this season. A game out of first place and having already lost to the Highlanders, Santa Barbara has very little margin for error the rest of the way if the team wants to claim the No. 1 seed entering the Big West Tournament.

Scouting the Mustangs
• Santa Barbara takes on Cal Poly in the 56th meeting between the two schools in UCSB's only contest this week. The Gauchos hold a 42-13 advantage over the Mustangs all-time after coming from 12 down with just over 12 minutes remaining to win 68-62 Jan. 20 in San Luis Obispo. Jessica Wilson was a perfect 6-for-6 in the first half and finished with a game-high 19 points, while Chisa Ononiwu added 17, and Jenna Green posted a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds in the win.

• Cal Poly enters Saturday's contest with an overall record of 10-12 after defeating Long Beach State 67-56 last Thursday and recording a 65-62 victory over UC Irvine on Saturday. The Mustangs have not lost since the Jan. 20 meeting with the Gauchos and have won a season-high five in a row. Cal Poly has been outscored by its opponents by an average of 66.5 to 67.5 but does out-rebound the opposition by an average of 40 to 38.7 this season. The Mustangs shoot 39.1% from the field, while their opponents have shot 40.4%. Senior forward Jessica Eggleston leads the team averaging 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, while Megan Harrison and Toni Newman put up 10.9 and 9.1, respectively. Cal Poly is just 3-7 on the road this season but two of those wins came last week.

Green Machine
Junior center Jenna Green leads UCSB averaging 15.9 points and 7.1 rebounds and has recorded a team-high 39 blocked shots in 2006-07. The San Jose, Calif. native also leads the squad shooting 53% from the floor and has scored in double-figures in all but two games this season. As far as Big West statistics go, Green leads the conference in field goal percentage, ranks second in scoring and blocks, and ninth in rebounding. The Gauchos' team captain continued to lead the way to success, scoring a game-high in both wins last week. Green finished an impressive 9-of-14 from the floor against UC Irvine and tied a season-high with 23 points (she also tallied 23 in UCSB's win at Cal State Fullerton Dec. 30). The center was one of four Gauchos to record a game-high seven rebounds to go with two blocks and two steals. Long Beach State had no answer for Green either and she finished with 18 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while recording five boards, two assists, and two blocks. Green shot 60% during the two wins last week and was named the UCSBgauchos.com Athlete of the Week for her efforts.

Multi-Faceted
Jessica Wilson has certainly been a player to watch this season and she has been exceptional the last few weeks. The Sacramento, Calif. native was a very respectable 7-for-11 from floor against the Anteaters last Thursday for 16 points. The Gauchos' most versatile player, she also hauled in seven rebounds and dished out a game-high six assists. Wilson shot the ball well again against the 49ers, finishing 5-of-9 for 10 points to go with a team-high eight rebounds, and four helpers. The Big West's assist leader at 4.36 per night, Wilson also owns the conference's best single game performance this season with 12, which came in UCSB's win over Pacific Jan. 27. She ranks fourth in the league in steals averaging 1.91 per game, eighth in field goal percentage (.436), 11th in rebounding (6.0), and 12th in scoring (13.2). As far as the team goes, Wilson is second in scoring and rebounding and leads the squad in steals.

X-Factor
Before transfer Chisa Ononiwu was eligible to play this season, very few people were aware just how good she would be. With 15 games in a UCSB uniform under her belt, Ononiwu has definitely become the team's x-factor. After she went 0-for-5 with a season-low two points in the Gauchos' win over Irvine, Onoiwu bounced back with a spectacular performance against Long Beach State, finishing 5-of-8 overall from the field, including 4-of-6 from distance for 16 points. The junior guard also grabbed seven rebounds and recorded career-highs with seven assists and four steals. The Houston, Tex. native has scored in double figures in 12 out of 15 games since becoming eligible Dec. 18. and is third on the team averaging 13.1 points and fourth hauling in 5.0 rebounds per night. More impressive is the fact that Ononiwu leads UCSB in three-point shooting at 45.3% (24-53). The Gauchos are 11-4 with Ononiwu in the lineup this season, compared to a mark of just 3-6 without her.

Point Taken
Sophomore point guard LaShay Fears enters this week's match-up with Cal Poly averaging 8.5 points per game, the fifth highest total on the squad, and is second in three-pointers made with 26. She leads the team averaging 33.1 minutes per game in 2006-07 and is second dishing out 3.2 assists, while ranking eighth in the Big West in both categories. After finishing with just four points in a foul-plagued 19 minutes last Thursday at UC Irvine, the native of Palmdale, Calif. had a different look in her eye two days later at Long Beach State and turned in her best performance since returning from a knee injury that caused her to miss two games in mid-January. Fears was aggressive from the opening tip and scored 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, her highest total since tallying 18 against the Anteaters Jan. 6. She hauled four rebounds, was credited with just one assist -- but probably had a handful more -- and added a block and two steals.

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 shrugged off a slow start in the win over the Anteaters and finished with 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting. She made all three of her attempts at the free-throw line, and added five rebounds and a steal. She struggled a bit offensively Saturday against the 49ers, going 2-of-5 from the field for five points. After starting just five games as a freshman a year ago, Warren has played in 23 games this season and has started all but one of those. She has scored in double figures on seven occasions, including three of the last five. Warren is sixth on the team averaging eight points, third averaging 5.1 rebounds, and her season shooting percentage of 45.3% 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
Following the Gauchos' showdown with redhot Cal Poly this week, UCSB will host Cal State Fullerton Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 p.m. and then entertain UC Riverside Saturday, Feb. 24 at 2:00 p.m. The contest with the league-leading Highlanders is Santa Barbara's last home game of the 2006-07 regular season.