March 12, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team will be making a second straight appearance in the Women's National Invitation Tournament after earning an automatic bid into the field of 48, it was announced today. The Gauchos, who qualified for postseason play for the 12th consecutive year Monday, will square off with the University of San Diego in first round action Thursday, March 15 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion with tipoff yet to be determined.
The 48-team Postseason WNIT field was unveiled Monday evening, following the selection of the NCAA Tournament field. Game times will be announced Tuesday by the WNIT.
The Gauchos earned an automatic berth in the WNIT by virtue of their second-place finish in the Big West Conference standings in 2006-07. The Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament expanded to 48 teams in 2007 for the first time in event history to allow for an automatic bid from every conference in the country. The 31 guaranteed spots are given to the team in each conference with the highest finish in the regular season standings that did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
The winner of the Gaucho-Torero showdown advances to play Oregon in the second round, which runs from March 16-19. A date and host team for that game has yet to be determined. The Postseason WNIT will be held on campuses of participating schools through the championship round, with the entire event concluding by Saturday, March 31.
UCSB carries an overall record of 18-13 into Thursday's contest after advancing to the Big West Tournament title game for the 11th consecutive year last week. Santa Barbara failed to capture the Big West regular season crown for the first time since 1994-95, finishing second with a 10-4 league mark, two games behind UC Riverside (12-2). The Gauchos entered the Big West Conference Tournament in Anaheim, Calif. as the No. 2 seed and defeated Cal State Fullerton 57-52 in the semifinals Friday, March 9, before losing a 70-67 heartbreaker for the second year in a row to the Highlanders on Saturday, March 10.
Santa Barbara has now made consecutive trips to the WNIT after winning nine straight Big West Tournament titles and an equal number of NCAA Tournament appearances from 1997-2005. Last season UCSB drew Fresno State in the Preliminary Round and lost a 78-59 decision to the Bulldogs despite 12 points and eight rebounds from Whitney Warren. The Gauchos first appearance in the Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament came in 1996 when it was an eight-team event held in Amarillo, Texas. UCSB suffered a 77-73 overtime loss to LSU before rebounding with victories over Western Kentucky (77-61) and Illinois State (69-68) to win the consolation bracket. Santa Barbara has also enjoyed success in its two Preseason WNIT appearances, advancing to the championship game in 2000 and semifinals in 2004; both of those tournaments featured 16-team fields.
On Thursday the Gauchos will face a USD squad that is coming off the best season in program history, finishing 21-8 overall and second in the West Coast Conference at 10-4. Despite the Toreros' best start ever and first 20-win season, San Diego was upset by the University of San Francisco 80-69 in the first round of the WCC Tournament March 1. UCSB and USD have met five times with the Gauchos holding a 5-2 record in the all-time series. Santa Barbara posted a convincing 82-44 victory over San Diego in the 2003-04 Preseason WNIT in the Thunderdome in the last meeting between the two schools. The Toreros were 5-1 against the Big West Conference this season.
Tickets in the Gaucho fan section are available by calling the UCSB Athletic Ticket Office at (805) 893-8272. Tickets can also be purchased at the Jenny Craig Pavilion Box Office beginning Wednesday, March 14. The Jenny Craig Box Office is open Monday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm.