Gauchos Meet Goliath

March 21, 2009

Gauchos start with Goliath


What: Women's NCAA Tournament Berkeley Regional First Round

Who: No. 15 UCSB (22-9) vs. No. 2 Stanford (29-4)

Where: Cox Arena,San Diego

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Radio: 990 AM/91.9 FM

Gauchos, meet Goliath.

As if today's NCAA Tournament first round game wasn't daunting enough, Stanford showed during its open practice session Friday why it's such a nightmare to match up with. The Cardinal (29-4), who hold the No. 2 spot in both national polls, start five players over six feet, including a pair of 6-foot-4 stars in the post.

The height is sure to be a problem for the Gauchos, who are looking at different ways to add some length to a starting lineup that features just one player (6-foot-4 center Jenna Green) over 6-0.

"They're the biggest team that we've faced and they may be the biggest team in the country," UCSB coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "We've looked at bigger lineups. We've looked at maybe using (6-4 center) Kat Suderman with Green, and Chris Spencer (6-1) and Meagan Williams (5-10) give us bigger players on the wings.

"We definitely have some options available, but we have to kind of see what the flow of the game is."

Junior center Jayne Appel and sophomore forward Kayla Pedersen form an imposing tandem down low for Stanford, seeded secobnd in the Berkeley Regional. Appel averages 14.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, and her 61 percent shooting from the field is fifth in the country. Pedersen, who was Most Outstanding Player at the Pac-10 Tournament, averages 11.3 points and 7.8 rebounds.

"They have one of the best frontcourts in the country," Gottlieb said. "Jayne is as good of a low block player as I've seen and Kayla is very athletic, so I think we have to try and limit touches in the post and keep them off the offensive boards and not let those two get easy baskets in transition."

Green is tasked with keeping the No. 15 Gauchos (22-9) competitive down low, and the sixth-year senior is certainly looking forward to what may end up being the final game of her long career.

"You always want to play against the best, and I feel like I'm going to have that opportunity," she said. "That's all you can ask for in college basketball and I'm excited for the challenge."

Green is one of two Gauchos ó along with senior guard Lauren Pedersen ó to average double-figures in points this season. The high-scoring Cardinal have six players who average 9.8 points or more.

Stanford and UCSB run similar offensive systems, a fact that wasn't lost on legendary Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer.

"It feels a little funny because it's almost like we're playing against ourselves," she said. "The familiarity will help us. (Former Stanford video coordinator and current UCSB assistant) Evan Unrau knows all our plays and play calls and personnel so it's kind of going to be like a pick-up game. We're not going to surprise them with anything and I don't think they'll surprise us with anything."

While UCSB is the heavy underdog, men's Big West champion Cal State Northridge overcame similar odds on Thursday to give No. 2 Memphis a scare, before falling in the final minutes.

Asked if the Gauchos took note of the Matadors' upset bid senior guard Sha'Rae Gibbons was quick to raise the bar for tonight's game, which can be seen on ESPN2 at 7:30.

"Seeing Northridge represent the Big West pretty well was good, but for me, that's not enough," Gibbons said. "I want to win.

"We came here to win."