Nov. 8, 2006
Game No. 1
Friday, November 10, 2006 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Portland State Vikings
The Thunderdome (6,000)
Game No. 2
Sunday, November 12, 2006 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at No. 23 UCLA Bruins
Pauley Pavilion (12,819)
2006-07 Gaucho Record
0-0 overall/0-0 Big West Conference
0-0 home/0-0 away/0-0 neutral
The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team opens the 2006-07 campaign with the first of 17 games in the Thunderdome this week in a match-up against Portland State on Friday. The 11-time defending Big West Conference champions will take on the Vikings, who finished 12-16 overall a year ago, with tip-off slated for 2:00 p.m. After that the Gauchos will hit the road for the first time this season when they travel to Westwood to take on UCLA. UCSB will battle the Bruins, who advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, Sunday at 2:00 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion.
Gauchos on the Air & Web
Both of this weekend's games will be broadcast on KTLK 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Friday's match-up against Portland State will air tape delayed at 6:00 p.m., while Sunday's battle with UCLA, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2006-07, will be broadcast live. Steve Wendt will be back for his third season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos and former Los Angeles Laker and UCSB star Don Ford will provide most of the color commentary. Fans can also catch all games live via the internet by going to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass". With this option hoops fans can enjoy live audio and video from the comfort of their homes courtesy of CSTV.
2005-06 At A Glance
After losing five straight to open the season, UCSB finally turned things around with an impressive 90-81 overtime win over UCLA December 17. The victory was the second-ever for the Gauchos over the Bruins and was the first of a season-high five-game winning streak--all of which came within the friendly confines of the Thunderdome. Despite finishing 6-10 in non-conference play, Santa Barbara bounced back to win an impressive 11th consecutive Big West regular season title at 10-4, sharing the crown with Long Beach State. UCSB advanced to the conference tournament title game once again, but fell to UC Riverside 59-58 after Jessica Wilson's potential game-winning lay-up rattled off as time expired. The loss not only snapped the Gauchos' string of nine-straight Big West Tournament titles, but also meant they would not advance to a 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament. UCSB did qualify for the WNIT, however, falling 78-59 at Fresno State in the preliminary round despite a brilliant 12-point, eight-rebound effort from freshman guard Whitney Warren. Santa Barbara finished the season16-14 overall, missing the 20 win plateau for the first time since 1994-95.
So, You Like Our Chances
The media selected UC Santa Barbara to win its 12th-consecutive Big West Conference regular season title in votes conducted Wednesday, October 26 at the league's annual media day. UCSB received four first place nods and a total of 93 points to capture the top spot in the preseason media poll, finishing one spot ahead of reigning tournament champion UC Riverside, who received seven first place votes and a total of 92 points. Long Beach State, who shared the 2005-06 regular season title with the Gauchos, came in third with the three remaining first place votes and 83 total points. Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine, and Pacific followed, rounding out the poll. The Gauchos were chosen to finish second behind the Highlanders (47 points) by the conference's eight coaches, receiving three first place votes for a total of 43 points.
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. Entering his 20th season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 396-178 (.690) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 494-292 (.628). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 15 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 two 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 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. French is just six wins from his 500th career victory and four shy of his 400th win at UCSB.
Green Tabbed Preseason All-Conference
For the second time in as many years junior center Jenna Green earned a spot on the six-player Preseason All-Big West Team after garnering first team all-conference honors last season. The San Jose, Calif. native led the Gauchos with averages of 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots per game in 2005-06. She started a career-high 29 games after missing all but three contests with a torn medial collateral ligament as a freshman in 2004-05. Green's selection marked the fifth consecutive year a UCSB player was chosen for the preseason all-conference squad.
UCSB Looks Impressive In Exhibition Win Over Cal Poly Pomona
The Gauchos took the court for the first time Saturday, but it definitely did not show as they defeated visiting Cal Poly Pomona 76-47 in the Thunderdome. Santa Barbara was in control from the opening tip-off and raced out to an early 9-2 advantage at the 17:52 mark. The lead swelled to 25-2 with nine minutes left and the Gauchos never looked back. UCSB shot 53.3 % in the first half and took a decisive 46-16 lead into the locker room, before opening the second with a 12-4 run to put the game away early. Jessica Wilson scored a game-high 22 points and pulled down nine rebounds to pace the Gauchos, while Jenna Green added 18 on eight-of-nine shooting, grabbed three steals, and blocked two shots. Whitney Warren was also impressive in her season debut, chipping in with ten points.
Scouting the Vikings
After kicking off the 2005-06 campaign with two games on the road, UCSB will open at home against Portland State this season. Friday's contest will be just the second-ever meeting between the two schools after the Vikings defeated the Gauchos 64-45 all the way back in 1978. Portland State finished with a 12-16 overall record and a 6-8 conference mark, losing in the first round of last season's Big Sky tournament.
The Vikings return four eight letterwinners and four starters from last year's squad that made a nine-game improvement in the win column from the year before. Among them is sophomore G/F Kelsey Kahle, who earned Big Sky Conference Co-Outstanding Freshmen honors and was a first team all-conference selection after averaging 17.3 ppg and 8.3 rpg. Also back is senior G/F Heather Arns, who averaged 10.6 ppg and led the team with 85 assists.
Scouting the Bruins
Following the season-opening contest with Portland State, UCSB will hit the road to face No. 23 UCLA. The Gauchos and Bruins have squared off a total of 15 times, with UCLA holding a 13-2 advantage in the all-time series. Last season, the Gauchos defeated the Bruins for the first time since 1991, outlasting UCLA 90-81 in overtime. Sophomore guard Jessica Wilson led the way with 21 points and 11 rebounds, while freshmen point guard LaShay Fears chipped in with 20 points on 8-for-13 shooting.
The Bruins return eight letterwinners and three starters from last year's squad that finished 21-11 overall and lost to Purdue in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March. Headlining the list of returning starters is senior guard Noelle Quinn, an honorable mention AP All-American and the leading returning scorer and rebounder at 18.1 ppg 8.2 rpg, respectively. Quinn is a candidate for this year's Women's Wooden Award. Two other starters are slated to return--- junior forward Lindsey Pluimer, who averaged 10.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 2005-06, as well as senior forward Amanda Livingston, who posted averages of 5.7 ppg and 2.4 rpg, respectively.
O'Bryan, Thomas Leave UCSB
On October 17, head coach Mark French announced that two key players would not be with the Gauchos in 2006-07. Guard Erin O'Bryan and forward Shantel Thomas both left the program citing personal reasons. O'Bryan, who appeared in 27 games for UCSB last season, averaging 6.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, will not be back for her senior season. Thomas, on the other hand, is expected to return at some point, provided she maintains her eligibility. The Sacramento, Calif. native appeared in 25 games as a true freshman in 2005-06, averaging 2.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in 11.2 minutes per contest.
Less than a month after the Gauchos learned that they would be without O'Bryan and Thomas this season, the coaching staff was dealt more bad news when the decision was made that Kat Suderman will redshirt in 2006-07. The San Luis Obispo, Calif. native will be inactive for the upcoming season as she continues to rehabilitate from a knee surgery she had last spring. Suderman was one of only two players to appear in all 30 games last season, starting eight games for UCSB. She posted career-highs averaging 6.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game. Over the past two seasons, Suderman has appeared in a combined 56 games, more than any other Gaucho over that span.
Coming Out Firing
UCSB has traditionally been very tough to beat in its season openers and has won 11 of the last 12. Last year's 86-55 loss at Michigan State snapped the Gauchos string of 11 straight victories in season openers, dating back to 1994-95. In fact, other than the Spartans in 2005-06, the last team to defeat Santa Barbara to start the season was UCLA in Los Angeles in 1993-94. The Gauchos will be looking for a victory this Friday when Portland State comes to town to start another winning streak in season openers.
Playing With the Best
In order to prepare themselves for the rigors of the Big West Conference, UCSB will have a very challenging non-conference schedule once again in 2006-07. The Gauchos will face a total of eight squads that qualified for last season's NCAA Tournament, including a showdown at defending national champion Maryland December 2. Santa Barbara will also welcome Elite Eight participant Stanford to the Thunderdome February 1, as part of a nine-game non-conference home slate, four of which will be against 2006 Big Dance squads.
Gauchos Look To Start Streaking
2005-06 was a very disappointing year by UCSB standards. Finishing just 16-14 last season and losing in the WNIT First Round, Coach French and the Gauchos had a number of streaks broken that they will be looking to reestablish this year. UCSB saw its streak of nine consecutive Big West Tournament titles come to a crashing halt after the narrow loss to UC Riverside in the title game. That being said, Santa Barbara did not receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and its string of nine-straight trips to the Big Dance was also severed. With a total of 16 victories, UCSB saw its span of 10 seasons with at least 20 wins broken, as well. Finally, although the Gauchos did win the Big West regular season title, they shared the honor with Long Beach State, which snapped their streak of 10-straight outright conference championships--a run that was the longest in the nation. Needless to say, UCSB will aim to start a new set of streaks in 2006-07.
With the loss of O'Bryan, the only senior on the Gauchos' preseason roster, UCSB will look to its juniors for leadership this season. Center Jenna Green was healthy last season, starting 29 games and returns this year in incredible shape. The San Jose, Calif. native was UCSB's most consistent offensive weapon all season and established career highs of 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots per game. Guard Jessica Wilson had a breakout year as a sophomore last season, posting averages of 10.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.59 assists per contests. One of the squads best all-around athletes, the Gauchos will be dangerous if she can consistently perform at her highest level this season. Finally, junior transfer Chisa Ononiwu will add depth in the backcourt when she becomes eligible after the early part of the season. A member of Baylor's 2005 championship team, Ononiwu is quick, she can penetrate, and she plays great defense.
Santa Barbara's roster features a quartet of sophomores who will all undoubtedly make a difference in 2006-07. Headlining the group of second year players is LaShay Fears, who started 29 games at the point a year ago. The Palmdale, Calif. native's rookie campaign was highlighted by a 20-point performance, including the eventual game-winning jumper to lead UCSB to an overtime victory over tourney-bound UCLA December 17. Also returning is guard Whitney Warren, who finished the season very strong scoring a season-high 12 points on 6-for-16 shooting in the Gauchos' WNIT loss at Fresno State. UCSB's most improved player this season is Kim Smith, who appeared in 20 games as a walk-on in 2005-06, and played a season-high 18 minutes at Weber State November 28. Lastly, Sha'Rae Gibbons returns to UCSB after taking a personal leave of absence last season, ready to build on her impressive freshmen campaign from two years ago. The Sacramento, Calif. native averaged 1.5 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 27 games in 2004-05.
The fact that the Gauchos are going to be a young squad and not a particularly deep one means that UCSB's five freshman will have the opportunity to step in and make an impact this season. Jordan Franey (San Diego, Calif./Santana HS) comes to Santa Barbara no stranger to competing at the highest levels. She was a member of the Los Angeles-based Cal Swish Black club team and also guided Santana High School to back-to-back CIF Division III championships as a junior and senior. Meagan Williams (Sacramento, Calif./Sheldon HS) is another talented Golden State product and was a two-time Sacramento Player of the Year. Rookie forward Jessie Goble (Fallbrook, Calif./Fallbrook HS) will be considered in the post after setting the Fallbrook High School all-time record for blocked shots in a season as a senior, while Ariana Gnekow (Santa Ynez, Calif./Santa Ynez HS) is a talented guard that comes to UCSB having led SYHS to four consecutive Los Padres League championships. The newest Gaucho is forward Ashley Hall (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley HS), a walk-on who joined the squad in late September after suffering a season-ending knee injury as a high school senior.
Following this weekend's match-up with Portland State and at UCLA, the Gauchos will return home for three straight. UCSB will take on Oregon, Friday, November 17 at 7:00 p.m. and then welcome 2005-06 NCAA Tournament qualifier Louisville to the Thunderdome a week later.