March 8, 2010

Five Gauchos Honored by Big West

March 8, 2010

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Five UC Santa Barbara women's basketball players were honored as All-Big West Conference players on Monday the conference announced. Four Gauchos were named to the all-conference teams - which led all nine Big West schools - while a fifth player was honored with a Specialty Award by the conference.

Emilie Johnson and Mekia Valentine were both honored as Second Team all-conference honorees while Meagan Williams was an Honorable Mention selection. Sweets Underwood was named to the All-Freshman Team while senior Ariana Gnekow was given the Hustle Award as voted on by her peers throughout the conference.

Johnson, a sophomore, led the Gauchos with 13.9 points per game and 3.3 assists per game and was twice honored as the Big West Player of the Week this season. Johnson has led the team in scoring in four of the five games during UCSB's current winning streak.

Valentine, a 6-foot-4 junior transfer, set a school record for blocked shots with 106 and ranks third in the nation with her 3.9 blocks per game. She averaged 12.2 points and a conference-leading 9.1 rebounds per game this season.

"Em and Mekia are kind of mainstays for our team," Head Coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "Both face a lot of pressure every game and they are still able to produce. People try to limit their touches and make their lives difficult."

Meagan Williams finished the regular season third on the team in scoring with 11.0 points per contest and led the Gauchos with 3.6 assists per conference game. She set career-highs in nearly every statistical category this season and had 15 games of double-digit points and was one of just two players to start all 29 games this year.

Sweets Underwood continued a long tradition of UCSB players on the All-Freshman Team, marking the fourth straight season that a Gaucho was named to the all-frosh team. Underwood played in all 29 games this season and averaged 3.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Ariana Gnekow, who began her UCSB career as a freshman walk-on and is one of the team's tri-captains this season, was given the Hustle Award - a distinguishing honor voted on by the Big West players. Gnekow finished second on the team with 4.8 rebounds per game and was one of five players to see action in all 29 of the Gauchos' contests. She became a fixture in the starting lineup for UCSB's final 12 games and the team won eight of those contests.

"I don't think anyone epitomizes the hustle player better than she does," Gottlieb said. "She's putting up great numbers and that's a great attribute to her hustle. She leaves a great legacy here and she played her entire career with a lot of Gaucho heart."

While four Gauchos were honored as all-conference players - equaling UCSB's total each of the past two seasons and leading the entire conference for honorees - it marked the first time since the 1994 season that Santa Barbara did not have at least one player named to the All-Big West First Team.

UCSB is seeded fifth in the tournament and will open Big West play on Wednesday at noon vs. No. 8 seed Pacific. All UCSB games are broadcast live in AM 990 and streaming live online by clicking here. Games go on the air a half-hour before tip-off.

Big West Tournament tickets are available for purchase by clicking here.

UCSB defeated UOP twice this season. In this case, the Gauchos have to win four games in four days to advance to their 15th straight postseason. The game will be broadcast live online through BigWest.TV.

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