UCSB Looks To Close In On No. 1 Seed Saturday At UC Riverside

Feb. 28, 2008

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The Schedule
Game No. 26
Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 5:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (18-7, 12-1) at UC Riverside Highlanders (13-12, 10-3)
The Student Recreation Center (3,168)

Showdown in Riverside
UC Santa Barbara has just one contest on the schedule this week, but it will be one the Gauchos' biggest games of the year following last week's 59-56 overtime loss to UC Davis. No longer perfect in conference play, UCSB will travel to defending Big West Champion UC Riverside Saturday evening for a showdown with the rival Highlanders, who will be hungry for revenge after suffering a 73-61 defeat at the hands of the Gauchos on Jan. 31. With a victory, Santa Barbara can maintain a two-game lead over second place Davis in the loss column and move that much closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the Big West Tournament heading into the final week of the regular season. Following the rematch with UCR, UCSB will come home to face Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State Mar. 6-8 to wrap up its 2007-08 regular season slate.

For the Record
Suffering their first defeat since Dec. 28, the Gauchos saw their impressive 14-game winning streak come to an end last week but still hold the top spot in the Big West standings with a record of 12-1 entering week nine of conference play (Davis is second with a mark of 11-3 and Riverside is third at 10-3 after Wednesday's loss to Cal Poly). UCSB did post a 62-51 victory over Pacific on Feb. 21 to run its win total to 18 and now stands at 18-7 overall after the loss to the Aggies. The 12 straight wins to open Big West play -- and 14 consecutive victories overall -- was Santa Barbara's best start since the 2001-02 squad finished a flawless 16-0 in league and went unbeaten in 22 straight. UCSB is still perfect in conference games on the road (7-0) and enters Saturday's showdown with UC Riverside with an impressive record of 9-3 away from home this season.

Gauchos on the Air & Web
The tilt with Riverside, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2007-08, will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Steve Wendt is in his fourth season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos and he will have the call live from the Student Recreation Center. Yours truly will try not to scare away listeners while handling the color commentary duties. If radio isn't your thing, you can watch all games live via the internet by going to www.bigwest.tv and purchasing the UCSB season package. For the third straight year the Big West Conference and CSTV are partnering to bring exclusive Big West Gaucho events to fans online. BigWest.TV offers on-demand access to LIVE coverage of Big West contests as well as press conferences, features, and Big West Championships.

UCSB Can't Overcome Poor Shooting In Loss to Davis
After shooting better than 40% in 13 of the 14 games during the their recent winning streak, you couldn't help but feel the Gauchos were due to come out flat sooner or later. That day came last Saturday against UC Davis, as UCSB converted just 19-of-58 shots, 32.8% -- the team's worst percentage from the field since finishing at a dismal 30.5% clip in the season-opening loss to BYU. Excluding Lauren Pedersen, who finished 6-for-10 on the way to a career-high 19 points, the Santa Barbara starters were a combined 4-for-23 in the game, 21.7%. Senior guard Jessica Wilson had a forgettable game, finishing just 2-of-14 for six points. The Gauchos also missed eight free-throws, finishing 12-of-20, which proved to be very costly in a 59-56 loss in overtime.

Despite the poor shooting, UCSB had its chances, using a 13-3 run over a six minute stretch in the second half to take a 39-37 lead with 8:18 remaining. Santa Barbara led 45-41 three minutes later, but the Aggies scored seven unanswered points to take a 48-45 cushion with 3:48 left. The Gauchos tied the game at 50-50 on a layup from Ashlee Brown and came up with a big steal on the ensuing possession to force overtime, but their luck ran out as Davis made the plays down the stretch to hand UCSB its first loss in conference play this season. The Aggies were 3-for-4 from the field in the extra session and made all but one of their free-throws (3-4), while the Gauchos made just 1-of-8 shots and went 4-of-6 at the line. UC Davis shot 43.8% for the game -- the highest mark for a Gaucho opponent since Jan. 10 -- and pulled off the upset despite getting out-rebounded by a 45-29 margin.

About The Coach
Mark French returned to his alma mater at the start of 1987-88 season and women's basketball at UC Santa Barbara has never been the same. In his 21st season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 433-199 (.685) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 531-313 (.629). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 16 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 three Postseason 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 was 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 and holds conference records for league wins and consecutive seasons at one school. French reached two major coaching milestones last season, winning his 400th victory at UCSB with a 78-67 Santa Barbara win over Pepperdine Dec.18 and then notched his 500th career victory overall when the Gauchos defeated Long Beach State Jan. 4.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Averaging 9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists over the last three games.
G - Lauren Pedersen - Finished with a career-high 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting in loss to UC Davis.
G - Jessica Wilson - Leads the Gauchos averaging 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds this season.
F - Margaret Johnson - Hauling in 7 rebounds per game over the last five.
F - Kat Suderman - Played just 17.5 minutes in two games last week with strep throat.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Fifth on the squad averaging 7.2 points in 23 games this season.
G - Meagan Williams - Was 2-for-3 and finished with 5 points against the Aggies.
G - Ariana Gnekow - DNP vs. UC Davis, played a total of 7 minutes over the last three.
F - Ashlee Brown - Hauled in a career-best 16 rebounds in overtime defeat to Aggies Saturday.
F - Jordan Franey - Scored 4 points in 10 minutes in win over Pacific last Thursday.
F - Whitney Warren - Tied her career mark with 9 rebounds vs. UC Davis.
C - Jessie Goble - Has appeared just once in the last three games.

Tough Week For the Offense
Entering last week's contests against Pacific and UC Davis, Santa Barbara was averaging 69.7 points per game to lead the Big West in scoring. And while the Gauchos are still the conference's highest scoring squad after going 1-1 in those games, they scored just 62 points against the Tigers and a mere 56 in the loss to the Aggies, dropping their season average to 68.8. In fact, the totals were two of the team's seven lowest scoring outputs of the season. Furthermore, UCSB has scored fewer than 56 points on just two occasions in 2007-08 and both of those games were in November. The Gauchos put up 50 in a loss to BYU to open the season Nov. 9 and then managed just 42 at No. 14 Arizona State eight days later.

Did You Know?
For the first time in nine games UCSB did not hold a lead at the half, trailing UC Davis 22-21 last Saturday...The Gauchos are now 2-7 when trailing at intermission this season and a perfect 16-0 when leading at the break...Santa Barbara failed to score 60 points in a game for the first time since defeating Cal State Fullerton 59-58 in overtime Jan. 12...UCSB is just 1-5 when scoring less than 60 in 2007-08...Defensively, the Gauchos allowed just 59 points against the Aggies but still suffered their first loss of the year when limiting the opposition to under 60...Santa Barbara fell for just the second time and now stands at 14-2 when controlling the glass this season... A total of eight players have led Santa Barbara in scoring this season with Jessica Wilson and Sha'Rae Gibbons leading the way a team-high six times apiece...UCSB leads the Big West dishing out over 15 assists per game...The Gauchos also lead the conference and rank 37th in the nation with an overall rebounding margin of +5.8.

Scouting the Highlanders
• UCSB will take on UC Riverside Saturday in its final road contest of the 2007-08 regular season. The Gauchos lead the all-time series with the Highlanders 15-11 after posting a 73-61 home victory in the first meeting of the year on Jan. 31. Jessica Wilson finished with 19 points and a season-high 12 rebounds to lead Santa Barbara to the impressive victory, while Tainoisouti Lott tallied 27 points and 13 boards in the loss. The Gauchos' win snapped a five-game skid against the Highlanders that included narrow defeats in the Big West Tournament title game each of the last two seasons. UCSB is seeking its first season sweep of UCR since 2004-05.

• Reigning Big West Coach of the Year John Margaritis is in his fourth year at the helm and welcomes back four starters from least year's squad that finished with an overall record of 21-11 and won the program's first Big West regular season title with a mark of 12-2. The Highlander's crown brought UCSB's streak of 11 consecutive regular season championships to an end.

• UC Riverside enters Saturday's match-up with an overall record of 13-12 and currently sits in third place in the conference standings with a mark of 10-3. The Highlanders saw their six-game winning streak snapped and fell out of second place with a 54-52 home defeat to Cal Poly Wednesday night. It was their first loss since falling to the Gauchos in Jan. Riverside ranks sixth in the Big West averaging 63.3 points per game, while giving up 60.7, a figure that ranks second. Seyram Gbewonyo has started every game this season and leads the team averaging 13.8 points to go with 3.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Sophomore forward Brittany Waddell has been very impressive lately, averaging 11 points per game, while Lott is putting up 10.3 points and 6.6 boards and shooting 47.5% from the field.

Rock Steady
Jessica Wilson struggled offensively last week, shooting a combined 7-for-27 against Pacific and UC Davis, bit she still found ways to leave her mark on both games. In the win over the Tigers, Wilson scored 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting, hauled in seven rebounds, dished out two assists, and finished with a career-high eight steals. She finished with just six points in the loss to UC Davis -- her third-lowest output of the season -- but did tally four rebounds, three assists, and three steals. For the season, the Sacramento, Calif. native leads the team averaging 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and is third dishing out 2.7 assists. Despite the rough shooting week, she has been very impressive from the field in 2007-08 overall, shooting 44.5%, which ranks eighth in the Big West. Wilson also ranks 11th in the conference in both scoring and rebounding and fourth in steals. She has been a big reason why Santa Barbara has been the team to beat in the Big West all season, averaging team-highs of 13.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in league play. UCSB is 13-3 when Wilson reaches double figures this season.

Pedersen's Prowess
Lauren Pedersen has shown that she can do a lot more than just distribute the ball recently. After finishing with season-highs of 15 points and six rebounds in the Gauchos' 74-72 overtime win over Cal Poly Feb. 16, the junior guard had two excellent performances last week. She scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting in the win over Pacific and also finished with four rebounds, a game-high five assists, and a season-best four steals. Pedersen was even better Saturday against UC Davis, shooting 6-for-10 from the floor, including 5-of-8 from the three point line, for a career-best 19 points. She also added five rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and two steals in a career-high 39 minutes. All of Pedersen's career-high five threes came in the second half and the performance marked the first time she has led UCSB in scoring this season. On the year, the transfer from UCLA is averaging 6.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. She enters Saturday's contest leading the Big West dishing out 4.6 assists in 13 conference games.

What Can Brown Do For You?
Another player that had a very memorable performance in a losing effort last week was Ashlee Brown. After tallying six points and three boards in the win over the Tigers, the freshman forward recorded her first career double-double against UC Davis, finishing with 11 points and 16 rebounds. Brown was 4-of-9 from the field and 3-of-7 at the free throw line in the loss to the Aggies on the way to her sixth double-digit effort of the season. The 16 rebounds was a career-high and shattered her previous mark of seven that came against Ole Miss on Dec. 29. It was also the highest total by a Gaucho this season and stands as the most rebounds in a game since Brandy Richardson pulled down 17 at Idaho Feb. 3, 2005. On the season, the native of Good Year, Ariz. native is averaging 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds, while shooting a team-high 50.4% from the floor.

Rae of Light
Sha'Rae Gibbons has reached double figures in five out of the last eight games and scored 14 points to lead the Gauchos in their 61-51 victory over visiting Pacific last Thursday. The junior guard was 4-of-7 from the floor and a perfect 5-of-5 at the free-throw line and also grabbed four rebounds. Like most of her teammates, she struggled two days later against UC Davis, finishing with just two points on 1-for-4 shooting. She did finish with just four turnovers however, after coughing it up a total of 10 times against the Tigers. The Sacramento, Calif. native is averaging career-highs of 10.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in 28.2 minutes per game this season.

Wilson Watch
With a layup with 2:38 remaining in the Gauchos' 73-61 win over defending Big West champion UC Riverside Jan. 31, senior guard Jessica Wilson became the 22nd player in program history to score 1,000 points for her career. The Sacramento, Calif native began the season with 774 career points and has scored 311 through 25 games in 2007-08 after finishing with a total of 17 against Pacific and UC Davis last week. Currently sitting in the No. 19 spot on UCSB's all-time scoring charts with 1,085 career points, she now needs just 69 points to pass Jess Hansen (1999-2003) for the 18th spot on the list. Wilson joins teammate Jenna Green as a member of the elite 1,000 point club and they became the first duo to reach the plateau together since Kristen Mann and Mia Fisher did so in 2003-04 and 2004-05. Green scored her 1,000-career point against Cal Poly on February 17, 2007 and currently ranks 17th on the all-time charts.

Gauchos Picked To Finish Second In Preseason Polls
For the first time in over a decade the Gauchos were not selected to win the Big West Conference regular season title by either the coaches or the media in voting conducted at the league's annual media day Oct. 25. UCSB finished second in both polls behind regular season and conference tournament champion UC Riverside, who received eight first place votes and 64 total points to capture the top spot in the preseason coaches' poll. Santa Barbara received one first place vote and 57 points, finishing a unanimous second. UC Davis was chosen to finish third with 44 points, while Cal Poly received the fourth place nod with 41. Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, Pacific, Cal State Northridge, and UC Irvine followed rounding out the poll. In the media poll, the Gauchos received one first place vote and 81 total points to finish second behind the Highlanders, who garnered nine first place votes and 89 points. Complete results of the voting can be seen at the bottom left of this page.

Green, Wilson Tabbed Preseason All-Conference
When the media selected a Preseason All-Big West Team at this year's annual media day, UCSB had two players selected, marking the sixth consecutive year a Gaucho made the squad. Senior center Jenna Green earned one of the six spots for a third consecutive year after earning All-Big West First Team honors last season. The San Jose, Calif. native led the Gauchos in points (16.6), rebounds (7.1), and blocked shots (1.7) for the second straight year, while shooting a league-best 53.7% from the field in 2006-07. Green was the only player to start all 33 games for UCSB last season. Also earning a nod for the preseason all-conference squad was senior guard Jessica Wilson. Wilson led the Big West averaging 4.5 assists and finished in the conference's top 10 in six major statistical categories. The Sacramento, Calif. native earned a second consecutive Second Team All-Big West selection after averaging 13.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in 31 games a year ago.

UCSB Inks Two For 2008-09
UC Santa Barbara signed a pair of high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during the early signing period, head coach Mark French announced Nov. 16. Emilie Johnson, a 5'6" point guard from Roseville, Calif. and Megan Kritscher, a 6'3" forward from Woodland, Calif. will join the Gauchos for the 2008-09 season as true freshmen. Johnson is in her senior season at Del Oro High School in Roseville, where she was named the 2006-07 Sierra Foothill League MVP after averaging 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 3.2 steals, while shooting 43% from the field as a junior last season. The only junior to earn a spot on the Sacramento Bee All-Metro First Team, Johnson led the Golden Eagles to 26-2 record and a third consecutive SFL championship a year ago. She is a three-time all-league selection and was named the Sonora Kiwanis Tournament MVP as a sophomore in 2006. Kritscher signs with UCSB after averaging 12.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 5.5 blocked shots per game as a junior at Pioneer High School last season. An All-Tri-County League selection, Kritscher scored a career-best 22 points while hauling in 11 rebounds and blocking three shots to lead the Patriots to a 44-30 victory over rival Woodland High School last year and recorded a career-high 10 blocks in a game against Inderkum. She was also an all-league performer in volleyball for PHS last season.