March 5, 2008

UCSB Wraps Up Regular Season At Home Against Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State

March 5, 2008

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The Schedule
Game No. 27
Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (19-7, 13-1) vs. Cal State Northridge (1-24, 0-14)
The Thunderdome (6,000)

Game No. 28
Saturday, March 8, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara (19-7, 13-1) vs. Long Beach (8-18, 6-8)
The Thunderdome (6,000)
Senior Day

And Then There Were Two...
After knocking off defending Big West Champion UC Riverside for the second time in a month last Saturday, UC Santa Barbara returns to the Thunderdome for its final two games of the regular season this week. Having already clinched the Big West Conference regular season title with the win over the Highlanders, the Gauchos will host last place Cal State Northridge Thursday night, before entertaining seventh place Long Beach State Saturday afternoon. After concluding its 2007-08 regular season slate, UCSB will head to Anaheim for the Big West Conference Tournament Mar. 12-15, seeking its first tournament crown since the 2004-05 campaign. Santa Barbara had won nine consecutive tournament championships before Riverside ended its run in 2006.

Closing In On 20
The Gauchos bounced back from their only loss in league play to defeat UC Riverside 70-62 last week and improve to 13-1 in the Big West with just two games remaining. Beginning with the 74-66 victory over Ole Miss on Dec. 29, Santa Barbara has now won 15 of its last 16 games and stands at 19-7 overall entering Thursday's contest with Cal State Northridge. With a victory over the lowly Matadors, the Gauchos will reach the 20-win mark for the first time since 2004-05, when UCSB finished with an overall mark of 21-9. Santa Barbara was just 16-14 the following season, snapping the program's run of 10 consecutive years with at least 20 victories. It's no coincidence that the Gauchos won the Big West Tournament nine times during that run and they will be looking to accomplish both feats again after a two year absence in next week in Anaheim. Santa Barbara is 8-3 at home this season.

Gauchos on the Air & Web
Both games this week 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 Thunderdome as the Gauchos square off with the Matadors and the 49ers. Former UCSB and Los Angeles Lakers star Don Ford will offer his infinite wisdom while handling the color commentary duties. UCSB's student radio station will also have the tilt with CSUN and their broadcast can be heard live online at www.kcsb.org. 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 or track the action with CSTV's GameTracker at www.UCSBgauchos.com.

UCSB Clinches Big West Title With Win Over Riverside
After UC Riverside snapped Santa Barbara's impressive run of 11 consecutive Big West regular season titles with a 62-54 victory last season in the Thunderdome, the Gauchos returned the favor Saturday, posting a 70-62 win at the Student Recreation Center. In what proved to be a hotly contested match-up, UCSB led 45-43 with 12:31 remaining when a minor scuffle broke out that resulted in the ejection of Kat Suderman and Jessica Wilson for the Gauchos and Seyram Gbewonyo for the Highlanders. Playing without its top two scorers, Santa Barbara responded with a 15-4 run over the next six minutes to take a commanding 60-50 lead -- its biggest of the game -- with 6:04 remaining. Riverside trimmed the deficit to just two at 64-62 with 1:24 left, but Whitney Warren converted an incredible scoop shot on the next possession to stem the tide and Santa Barbara sank four free throws in the final 39 seconds to put the finishing touches on the win. Freshman Ashlee Brown had a tremendous performance off the bench, leading all scorers with a career-high 22 points in 25 minutes. The Gauchos' spirited victory, coupled with Pacific's thrilling 72-71 win over second place UC Davis, gave UCSB its 12th regular season conference title in the last 13 years.

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 434-199 (.686) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 532-313 (.630). 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 10.4 points and 3.7 assists in 14 league games.
G - Lauren Pedersen - The Big West's assist leader dishing out 4.4 per game in conference play.
G - Meagan Williams - Leads Gaucho guards shooting 45% from the field in 2007-08.
F - Margaret Johnson - Hauling in 6.5 rebounds per game over the last six.
F - Ashlee Brown - Went 6-of-10 from the field, 10-of-11 at the line for career-best 22 points vs. UCR.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Finished with 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists in win at UC Riverside.
G - Ariana Gnekow - Has played a total of 8 minutes over the last four.
F - Jordan Franey - Was scoreless in three minutes against Highlanders.
F - Whitney Warren - Third on the squad averaging 4.8 boards against Big West competition.
C - Jessie Goble - Appeared off the bench in two of the last three.
G - Jessica Wilson - Will serve one game suspension against Cal State Northridge.
F - Kat Suderman - Will serve one game suspension against Cal State Northridge.

Offense Regains Its Form
After shooting a woeful 32.8% and finishing with just 56 points in the loss to UC Davis on Feb. 23, the Big West Conference's top offense returned to form Saturday at UC Riverside. The Gauchos went into the locker room trailing 31-29 after shooting just 38.5% (10-26) in the first half, but came out hot in the second, shooting a blistering 61% (14-23) to complete the regular season sweep of the Highlanders for the first time since 2004-05. UCSB finished at a 49% clip for the game, its highest mark from the field since Feb. 9. As a team, Santa Barbara has now shot better than 40% in 10 of its last 11 games and posted a record of 10-1 over that span. On the season, the Gauchos are 16-2 when shooting better than 40% from the field and 14-2 when scoring 70 points or more.

Did You Know?
The Gauchos won for just the third time when trailing at the half last week... They are now 3-7 when trailing at intermission this season and a perfect 16-0 when leading at the break... 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 has been very successful in close games in 2007-08, posting an impressive record of 13-3 in outcomes decided by 10 points or less... The Gauchos lead the Big West dishing out nearly 15 assists per game...Santa Barbara is 15-2 when out-rebounding the opposition this season and just 3-5 when the opposing team controls the glass... The Gauchos lead the conference and rank 32nd in the nation with an overall rebounding margin of +5.9.

Scouting the Matadors
• UCSB hosts Cal State Northridge Thursday night looking to improve to 14-1 in Big West play, but the Big West champs will have to do it without the services of Jessica Wilson and Kat Suderman, both of whom will serve a one-game suspension after being ejected against UC Riverside last week. The Gauchos and Matadors have squared off a total of 40 times over the years and Santa Barbara leads the all-time series 28-12. Meagan Williams led five Gauchos in double figures with 16 points off the bench as Santa Barbara doubled up Northridge 88-44 in the first meeting of the year on Jan. 5. Jessica Wilson added 15 points, six rebounds, and five steals in what stands as the Gauchos' most lop-sided victory of the season. UCSB has won 18 of the last 19 meetings with CSUN.

• Staci Schulz is in her sixth year as head coach of the Matadors and has the services of just seven letterwinners from last year's squad that finished with an overall record of 13-16 and placed fourth in the Big West standings at 9-5. CSUN lost a total of seven seniors and all five starters from their 2006-07 team.

• With that said, its been a rough year for the Matadors, who enter Thursday's contest seeking their first conference win of the year. Northridge owns an overall record of just 1-24 (0-14 Big West) after losing to UC Irvine at home last Saturday. Despite the Matadors' poor record, senior center Katie Holloway has had a memorable season and paces the team averaging 13.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. She also leads the conference shooting 55.2% from the floor. Junior guard Whitney Ligon is not far behind, averaging 12.6 points per game and she is CSUN's top three-point shooter with a total of 44 treys. As a team, Northridge shoots just 35.7% and averages 56.2 points per game, a mark that ranks last in the Big West. The Matadors have struggled defensively as well, allowing a league-worst 73 points per game.

What Can Brown Do For You?
After recording her first-career double-double with 11 points and 16 rebounds in the Gauchos' loss to UC Davis Feb. 23, Ashlee Brown followed that effort with another tremendous performance in the win at UC Riverside. Playing 25 minutes off the bench, the freshman forward scored a career-high 22 points to lead all scorers, shattering her previous mark of 15 that came in UCSB's win at Cal Poly on Jan. 19. Brown was 6-of-10 from the field, made 10 consecutive free-throws after missing her first attempt, and finished with five rebounds, a block, and a steal. She scored 12 of her points in the final 12:31 of the second half -- after Kat Suderman and Jessica Wilson were ejected -- and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line after halftime to guide the Gauchos to the hard-fought victory. On the season, the native of Good Year, Ariz. native is averaging 6.4 points and 3.9 rebounds, while shooting a team-high 51.2% from the floor. She has reached double figures three times in the last five games and has scored 10 or more a total of seven times this season.

Guess Who's Back
In addition to Brown's outstanding showing, the other major storyline for the Gauchos in the win over the Highlanders was the play of Chisa Ononiwu. In one of her better performances of the season, the senior guard finished with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting in 29 minutes off the bench. Ononiwu also tallied four rebounds and two assists in the best outing we've seen from the Houston, Tex. native since she returned to the lineup after missing time in late January with a neck injury. The 11 points is her highest total since she also scored 11 in the Gauchos' rout of Cal State Northridge in week one of Big West play. Ononiwu had an excellent start to the season, scoring in double figures nine times during a 10-game stretch from Nov. 19 through Jan. 5, but she has struggled during most of the conference season. On the year, Ononiwu is averaging 7.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.2 assists, while shooting 41% from the field. In 12 league games she's averaging just 4.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 0.8 assists.

Kat Tales
Kat Suderman looked like herself again last week, finally recovering from a case of strep throat that had severely limited her in the Gauchos' previous two contests with Pacific and UC Davis (she averaged just 2.5 points in 17.5 minutes in those games). Suderman played a total of 14 minutes against UCR before being ejected with 12:31 remaining in the second half, but scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in that time. She also added two rebounds and a blocked shot against the Highlanders' athletic front line. The San Luis Obispo, Calif. native is second on the squad averaging 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in 25 games this season, while shooting 47% from the field, a number that also ranks second. In conference play Suderman is averaging 13.0 points per game, just behind Jessica Wilson's 13.1. She has now reached double figures 15 times in her last 19 games and had scored 10 or more in five straight before coming down with strep two weeks ago.

Its Coming Your Way
While she was only credited with two assists against UC Riverside, Lauren Pedersen has been setting the table for her teammates all season long. The junior guard enters Thursday's contest with Cal State Northridge leading the Big West averaging 4.43 assists in league play and ranks second overall dishing out 3.62 per game (CSUN's Tonicia Tademy leads the way at 4.12). Pedersen was averaging 4.3 helpers in the three games prior to the match-up with the Highlanders and she has a total of eight games with five or more this season. The transfer from UCLA is averaging 6.0 points and 2.7 rebounds, while shooting 37% from the floor in 26 games 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 318 through 26 games in 2007-08 after finishing with seven against the Highlanders in the rematch Saturday. Currently sitting in the No. 19 spot on UCSB's all-time scoring charts with 1,092 career points, she now needs just 62 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.

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