February 21, 2007

UCSB Looks to Rebound vs. Cal State Fullerton, Avenge Loss to UC Riverside

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Feb. 21, 2007

The Schedule
Game No. 26
Thursday, February 22, 2007 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Cal State Fullerton Titans
The Thunderdome (6,000)

Game No. 27
Saturday, February 24, 2007 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. UC Riverside Highlanders
The Thunderdome (6,000)

This Week
After struggling in a home loss to Cal Poly, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team entertains fifth place Cal State Fullerton and league-leading UC Riverside this week in its final two games of the 2006-07 regular season in the Thunderdome. The Gauchos will look to bounce back from their second home defeat in Big West play against the Titans Thursday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 p.m. and try to even the score with the Highlanders Saturday, Feb. 24 at 2:00 p.m. UCSB lost to UCR 70-57 in both team's conference-opener Dec. 28 in Riverside and then defeated CSUF 73-71 at their place two days later.

The Gaucho Record
The Gauchos carry an overall record of 14-11 into Thursday's contest with Cal State Fullerton after dropping a 71-68 decision to Cal Poly in their only game last week.With the loss, UCSB fell to below the .500 mark at home at 7-8, but remained in second place in the Big West Conference standings at 7-3, two games behind UC Riverside in the loss column (11-1). Despite the loss, UCSB has still won 10 of its last 13 since Dec. 28 and has not dropped consecutive games since following a 69-45 home loss to No. 20 Michigan State Dec. 20 with the aforementioned early season defeat to the Highlanders eight days later.

UCSB on the Air & Web
Both the matchup with Cal State Fullerton and the showdown with league-leading UC Riverside will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. KEYT Sports Director Gerry Fall, who is in his third year as the voice of the Gaucho's men's team, will fill have the call for both contests filling in for Steve Wendt. 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.

Gauchos Fall to Cal Poly Despite Big Afternoon from Jenna Green
Jenna Green turned in a milestone performance last Saturday, leading all scorers with a career-high 29 points on 11-for-16 shooting from the floor, but it was not enough as UCSB fell 71-68 to visiting Cal Poly in the Thunderdome. The junior center also reached the 1,000-point plateau in the loss, becoming the 21st player in program history to reach that mark. Green needed just seven points against the Mustangs to become one of the distinguished members of UCSB's 1,000 Point Club. With 7:53 in the first half, she scored her eighth point of the game and became the first Gaucho to reach 1,000 points for her career since Mia Fisher (2001-05) did so two years ago. The San Jose, Calif. native also hauled in 12 rebounds was 7-for-8 at the free-throw line. Jessica Wilson was the only other Gaucho to score in double figures, finishing with 16 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. She also added a game-high six assists, to go with two steals, and a blocked shot. UCSB erased two different nine-point deficits in the second half to take the lead but a critical turnover with the score tied in the final minute proved to be the difference for Cal Poly. Santa Barbara shot 34.4% (22-64) for the game, while Cal Poly finished 24-of-64, 37.5%. UCSB recorded a season-high with 55 rebounds to just 33 for the Mustangs, but it was to no avail. The Gauchos lost for just the second time this season when out-rebounding the opponent.

Where's the Help?
While Jenna Green and Jessica Wilson had superb performances against the Mustangs, they were the only two players to score in double figures and no other Gaucho tallied more than seven points in Saturday's loss. Starters Chisa Ononiwu, LaShay Fears, and Whitney Warren were a combined 7-of-29 from the field, 24% and scored a total of 20 points. UCSB's bench was not much help either, putting up just three points to 17 for the Cal Poly reserves. Santa Barbara is now just 4-9 when fewer than four players score 10+ points this season, compared to it's impressive 10-2 mark when at least four reach double figures. Needless to say, a balanced scoring attack is critical to the Gauchos' success.

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 410-189 (.685) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 508-303 (.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 - Was just 2-for-12 with seven points in 38 minutes against Cal Poly.
G - Jessica Wilson - Recorded her fifth-career double-double in Saturday's loss.
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Scored in double figures just once in last three after doing so in nine straight.
F - Whitney Warren - Third on the squad shooting 45.2% from the floor this season.
C - Jenna Green - Established new career-high with 29 points against the Mustangs.

Probable Reserves - Notes
F - Jordan Franey - Was held scoreless for the second time this season Saturday.
G - Meagan Williams - Grabbed three offensive rebounds and four total in nine minutes vs. Cal Poly.
G/F - Ariana Gnekow - Scored a total of seven points in the Gauchos' last four games.
C - Jessica Goble - Recorded a steal and career-high two blocks against Long Beach State Feb. 10.
F - Ashley Hall - Do not play against Cal Poly after appearing in previous four for the Gauchos.
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Returned to the lineup vs. UCI after missing nine games with a knee injury.

The Quest for 40%
There have been a number of barometers for the Gauchos' success in 2006-07 and one of the no brainers has been the team's shooting percentage. After shooting better than 45% in four out of five games, Santa Barbara struggled from the floor in Saturday's loss to Cal Poly, converting just 22-of-64 attempts, 34.4%.The Mustangs took the same number of shots from the field and made two more, finishing 37.5% for the game. Naturally, UCSB is a much better team when out-shooting the opponent, holding a 12-2 record when that happens, compared to 2-9 when its doesn't. The Gauchos are also very successful when shooting better than 40% from the field. Santa Barbara is 12-4 when hitting at least 40% of its shots and a perfect 3-0 when shooting 50% or better. On the other hand, the Gauchos are now just 2-7 when shooting less than 40% this season.

Threes a Crowd
Saturday's loss to the Central Coast rival Mustangs was the third defeat for the Gauchos in conference play in 2006-07 -- something the UCSB faithful are still not used to seeing. Before Santa Barbara went 10-4 against Big West competition a year ago, Coach French's Gauchos had lost two or fewer conference games in 10 consecutive seasons. Other than the 2005-06 campaign, the last time a UCSB squad lost more than twice in league play was in 1994-95 when the team went 13-5 in the Big West and 17-9 overall. Looking up at a Riverside team in the conference standings that has gone 11-1 and already clinched at least a share of the regular season crown, the Gauchos can not afford to lose another game. With the emergance of the Highlanders this season, it is clear that Santa Barbara has absolutely no margin for error the rest of the way. Unlike last year, a 10-4 finish will not win the conference this season.

Scouting the Titans
• Santa Barbara opens the week when Cal State Fullerton comes to town Thursday. The Gauchos and Titans have met 54 times over the years, with UCSB holding a 33-21 advantage in the all-time series after erasing a 16-point second half deficit on the way to a 73-71 victory in Fullerton Dec. 30. Jenna Green scored 21 of her game-high 23 in the second half to lead the comeback, while Jessica Wilson added 14 and Whitney Warren chipped in with 10. Santa Barbara has won 26 consecutive games against Fullerton and the Titans' last win in the series was in 1995.

• Cal State Fullerton enters Thursday's contest with an overall record of 13-13 and a 7-5 Big West Conference mark after defeating UC Irvine 77-59 last Thursday and dropping a 73-59 decision to Long Beach State on Saturday. The titans have been playing well lately and have won six of their last eight. Fullerton has been outscored by its opponents by an average of 66.7 to 65.3 and has been out-rebounded by the opposition by an average of 37.7 to 35.7 this season. The Titans shoot 38.7% from the field, while their opponents have shot 43.2% -- the second-worst mark in the league. Sophomore forward Toni Thomas leads the Big West in scoring at 17.1 points per game and ranks third in the conference averaging 8.6 rebounds. Senior guard Charlee Underwood is second on the squad and seventh in the BWC averaging 14.6 points per game to go with 6.8 rebounds and 47 three-point baskets. Cal State Fullerton is just 4-8 on the road this season but has won two of the last three.

Green Machine
Junior center Jenna Green leads UCSB averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds and has recorded a team-high 40 blocked shots in 2006-07. The San Jose, Calif. native also leads the squad shooting 53.6% from the floor and has scored in double-figures in all but two games this season. She is second on the squad in minutes played, averaging 30.7 per contest. 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. A week after the Gauchos' team captain led the team to back-to-back road wins and scored game-highs in wins over UC Irvine and Long Beach State, she had a performance that will go down as one of the best of her career in a losing effort Saturday against Cal Poly. Green continued to shoot the ball exceptionally well, finishing 11-of-16 from the floor, 69%, and led all scorers with a career-high 29 points. That total shattered her previous best of 24 that came against Cal State Northridge Mar. 10, 2006 in last season's Big West Tournament and stands as the third-most in the BWC this season. As previously mentioned, Green also became the 21st player in UCSB women's basketball history to score 1,000 points for her career. With 1,022 career points, she currently ranks 20th on the all-time career scoring charts and is just 12 shy of Mary Ann McLaughlin (1979-83). Green also grabbed 12 rebounds against the Mustangs to record her fifth double-double of the season and 11th of her career.

Multi-Faceted
Jessica Wilson continued to show why she is one of the most versatile players in the Big West Conference on Saturday, turning in a tremendous showing in the loss to the Mustangs. The Sacramento, Calif. native was just 3-of-8 from floor, but went 10-for-14 at the free-throw line for 16 points. She has now scored in double figures in 17 of the 23 games she has played in this season, including four straight. Wilson also hauled in a career-high 14 rebounds -- the most by a Gaucho in a single game this season -- and dished out a game-high six assists. The Big West's assist leader at 4.43 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. In fact, she has recorded five or more helpers in seven of her last 10 games. Wilson ranks third in the league in steals averaging 1.91 per game, seventh in field goal percentage (.434), 11th in rebounding (6.3), and 12th in scoring (13.3). As far as the team goes, Wilson is second in scoring and rebounding and leads the squad in steals. She has made 33% (17-51) of her threes this season.

X-Factor
With 15 games in a UCSB uniform under her belt, junior guard Chisa Ononiwu has definitely become the team's x-factor. After finishing 5-of-8 overall from the field, including 4-of-6 from distance for 16 points in the Santa Barbara's win at Long Beach State, Ononiwu was one of many Gauchos that struggled last Saturday against Cal Poly. The transfer from Baylor was just 2-for-10 from the floor and finished with seven points. Despite her pooring shooting afternoon, Ononiwu hauled in seven rebounds and dished out four assists. The Houston, Tex. native has scored in double figures in 12 out of 16 games since becoming eligible Dec. 18, but has failed to score 10 in two of the last three. Ononiwu is third on the team averaging 12.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per night. More impressive is the fact that Ononiwu leads UCSB in three-point shooting at 43.6% (24-55). The Gauchos are 11-5 (.688) with Ononiwu in the lineup this season, compared to a mark of just 3-6 (.333) without her.

Point Taken
Sophomore point guard LaShay Fears enters this week's matchup with Fullerton averaging 8.5 points per game and is second on the squad with 28 three-pointers made. She leads the team averaging 33.3 minutes per game in 2006-07 and is second dishing out 3.1 assists, while ranking eighth and ninth in the Big West, respectively. Fears has scored in double figures a total of seven times this season -- including three of the last five -- and the Gauchos have a 5-2 record in those games. The Palmdale, Calif. native was just 2-of-12 from the field in Saturday's loss to Cal Poly, with both of her makes coming from downtown. She finished with seven points, three rebounds, one assist, a blocked shot, and a steal. Fears hit a big three to put the Gauchos on top 66-63 with 53 seconds left to play Saturday, but the Mustangs closed the game on a 8-2 run to defeat UCSB in the Thunderdome for the second consecutive season.

The Warren Court
Whitney Warren has been one of the Gauchos' most reliable defenders in 2006-07 and has been a solid option on the offensive end of the floor, as well. As she has done all season, Warren shot the ball well against visiting Cal Poly, finishing with six points on 3-of-7 shooting from the floor. She also added three rebounds and a steal. Warren was tremendous defensively and was a big reason the Mustangs only had one player score in double figures. After starting just five games as a freshman a year ago, Warren has played in 24 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 six. Warren is averaging eight points this season and is third on the team grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game and shooting 45.2% from the field.

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 contests with Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside this week, the Gauchos will hit the road for two to wrap up the regular season. UCSB will play at Pacific Thursday, Mar. 1 at 7:00 p.m. before traveling to Cal State Northridge Saturday, Mar. 3 at 2:00 p.m.