Feb. 14, 2006
Game 22 Thursday, Feb. 16, 2006 7:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Irvine The Thunderdome (6,000)
Game 23 Saturday, Feb. 18, 2006 5:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. Long Beach State The Thunderdome (6,000)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
11-10 overall/6-2 Big West Conference
7-2 home/4-8 away/0-0 neutral
Gauchos Return Home For First Time in Nearly a Month
After playing its last five contests on the road, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team returns home and resumes Big West Conference play this week in the Thunderdome. On Thursday, Feb. 16, the Gauchos will look to halt their current two-game losing skid and sweep their season with UC Irvine when the Anteaters (7-16 overall, 5-6 in the Big West) come to town for a 7:00 p.m. showdown. Two days later, UCSB will have a chance to avenge its January loss to Long Beach State (15-7, 8-2 entering this week) before a regional television audience. Tip-off is slated for 5:00 p.m. Santa Barbara begins the week holding down second place in the league standings, one full game behind LBSU.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
Both of this week's games will air live on KIST 1340AM with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and former UCSB assistant coach Kristen Koch providing color commentary. Both broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show", and can also be accessed by pointing your browser to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "All-Access Pass". KCSB, 91.9FM in Santa Barbara, will provide dual coverage on Saturday courtesy of Chris Hoffman and Jon Horn. Meanwhile a live video webcast of Thursday's contest is available via a subscription service availble at www.bigwest.org/tv. In addition, Fox Sports Net West 2 will broadcast Saturday's Gaucho-49er clash live, marking the first time in program history that UCSB has hosted a regionally-televised regular season game in the Thunderdome. Paul Sunderland and Tammi Blackburn will serve as Fox's announcing team.
Short-Handed UCSB Suffers Pair of Non-Conference Road Losses in NorCal
Starting each of their games last week with just two healthy post players and finishing both with only one, the Gauchos suffered a pair of non-conference losses in Northern California. On Thursday, Feb. 9, UCSB fell 81-47 to 15th-ranked Stanford in Maples Pavilion, its most lopsided defeat in nearly 16 years. Santa Barbara trailed just 22-15 with five minutes to play in the opening half, but the Pacific-10 Conference-leading Cardinal closed the period on a 14-4 run and then scored the first seven points of the second half. Stanford's lead grew as wide as 73-32 with 7:05 to play, but Gaucho head coach Mark French was not present to witness the blowout as he received two technical fouls early in the period. It marked the first ejection of his 27-year career. Two days later, the Gauchos ran into a red-hot UC Davis team and were victims of the Aggies' eighth-straight victory, a 64-56 triumph in the Pavilion. UCD led by as many as 17 points while shooting a blistering 65.5% in the opening period, but was held to just one basket over the final 10 minutes as UCSB staged a stirring comeback. Santa Barbara grabbed its only lead of the game at 54-53 on Jessica Wilson's lay-in with 2:28 remaining, however the Aggies proceeded to make nine straight free-throws and a layup to retake the lead and pull away.
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 391-174 (.692) and an overall mark of 489-288 (.629). 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 #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G/F Pulled down game and career-high 10 board at UCD #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C 6.1 rebounds per game are tied for fifth in Big West #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Made just three-of-25 shots (12.0%) on last week's road trip #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Career-high 20 points in losing effort at UC Davis #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Has started all but one game as a true freshman
Reserves Notes #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Buried first career three-pointer at Stanford #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Shooting just 16.0% (four-of-25) over her last five games #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Sunk four-of-eight three-pointers in Feb. 4 win at Cal Poly #33 Jenna Green So. C Suffered head injury at UCD; out for Thursday's game #34 Autumn Nichols Sr. F Back injury has forced her to miss last four games #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Will miss third straght game Thursday due to ankle injury
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.
The Thunderdome...It's Good for What Ails Ya
After dropping a pair or road games last week - and going winless in non-conference play away from Santa Barbara this season - 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 57.4 points and a 34.5% 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.
Beat Up by the Best
While the Gauchos did score an upset win over the Bruins, they struggled mightily against their three opponents currently among the nation's top-25. No. 12 Stanford, 14th-ranked Michigan State and No. 18 BYU outscored and out-rebounded Santa Barbara by averages of 32.7 points and +17.6 boards, respectively, while collectively limiting UCSB to 28.1% shooting (47-of-167). The Gauchos' largest lead in any of those three games was three points in the opening minutes at BYU, while Stanford's 34-point triumph was UCSB's widest margin of defeat since falling 78-33 at UNLV on Feb. 17, 1990.
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 on Jan. 7, and instead of returning to form the Gauchos averaged a whopping 23.3 miscues over their six ensuing outings, posting their four worst totals of the year during that span. At UC Davis last Saturday, Santa Barbara proved that taking care of the basketball doesn't always equate to victory, as UCSB committed a season-low eight turnovers but still lost by eight points. Curiously, none of those were the result of steals by the Aggies.
UC Irvine is riding a season-long three-game winning streak - most recently defeating Pacific and Cal State Northridge at home last week - and has moved into fifth place in the Big West standings. Junior guard Angie Ned, the reigning conference player of the week, leads the Anteater attack at 13.1 points per tilt. She scored a game-high 18 against UCSB on Jan. 9 in Irvine but the Gauchos led wire-to-wire en route to a 71-60 victory. That was Santa Barbara's 10th straight win over UCI, and improved its advantage in the all-time series to 43-21.
Long Beach State rebounded from back-to-back Big West losses by defeating Pacific 77-54 at home last Saturday to regain its foothold on the conference lead. The 49ers can boast the league's scoring leader in senior guard Crystal McCutchen at 17.3 points per game as well as a 58-52 win over UCSB on Jan. 7 that ended a 28-game losing streak to Santa Barbara that dated back to 1994. LBSU - which plays at Cal Poly on Thursday prior to visiting the Thunderdome - still trails its all-time series with the Gauchos 34-28.
Whistles and elbows derailed Gaucho sophomore center Jenna Green last weekend, resulting in her two least-effective performances of the season. In a homecoming game at Stanford, the San Jose, Calif., native picked up three quick first-half fouls and scored a season-low three points prior to fouling out. Two days later, she amassed just seven points before being knocked to the floor by an elbow to the face midway through the second half; the injury makes her questionable for Thursday's game. Nonetheless, Green has been the most consistent Gaucho in 2005-06, scoring in double-figures 17 times - including four double-doubles - and pacing the UCSB offense on 10 different occasions. She 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 (14.1 points) and field goal percentage (50.2%) are both second-best, while she ranks third in rebounding and fourth in blocks at 7.5 and 1.24 per game, respectively. While Green is the only Gaucho currently making over half her shots, 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 before missing nearly all of last year with a knee injury.
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 but has amassed double-figures on just four other occasions. She tallied 10 points at UCD, but made just three-of-19 shots in the loss. 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 ranks second in the conference in steals at 2.47 per tilt, and also owns a rebounding average of 6.4 that is fourth-best. 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 Santa Barbara razor-thin in the post in recent weeks, sophomore post player Kat Suderman has been the most active Gaucho, averaging a whopping 31.8 minutes while starting each of the last five contests. She led UCSB with 15 points and nine boards at Stanford, however 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 - who has scored in double-digit six times this year - currently owns a 6.1 rebounds per game average that is tied for fifth-best in the Big West.
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 (78.0%) and sixth in steals (1.89) and eighth in minutes played (30.5). She has proven to be the Gauchos' best ball-handler with a 1.39 assist-to-turnover ratio (46 vs. 33), and added the title of "dynamic scorer" to her resume on UCSB's recent road trip by averaging 13.8 points over the last four games. The Morro Bay, Calif., native amassed 18 points on Jan. 28 at Pacific - the last on a free-throw in the final seconds to ice the narrow victory - and then poured in a career-high 20 last Saturday at UC Davis. Bonds was also clutch on Feb. 4 at Cal Poly by scoring the go-ahead three-pointer with 3:24 remaining.
After pouring in 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 at Cal Poly, scoring 16 after halftime to spark a Gaucho rally and avenge its January loss. She buried 10-of-12 free-throws against the Mustangs, but reverted to her quiet ways with just six total points on last week's road swing. The Palmdale, Calif., native has started all but one game as a rookie and owns a steals per game mark of 1.57 that is eighth-best in the Big West.
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 played 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 and a February showdown looms at Elite Eight participant Stanford, 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 play their two final road games next week, traveling south for Big West action. On Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7:00 p.m. UCSB plays at Cal State Fullerton, followed by a showdown two days later at 4:00 p.m. with UC Riverside.