Gauchos Tip-Off 2005-06 Campaign at #10 Michign State and Louisville
Nov. 15, 2005
Game 1 Friday, Nov. 18, 2005 5:00 p.m. PST East Lansing, MI
UC Santa Barbara at #10/11 Michigan State Breslin Center (14,759)
Game 2 Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005 9:00 a.m. PST Louisville, KY
UC Santa Barbara at Louisville Freedom Hall (18,865)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
0-0 overall/0-0 Big West Conference
0-0 home/0-0 away/0-0 neutral
ESPN/USA Today Rank: RV
Associated Press Rank: RV
Gauchos Have Won 11 Straight Season Openers Dating Back to 1994-95
The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team begins its 2005-06 campaign with a pair of challenging road games which will take the 10-time defending Big West Conference champions to the Upper Midwest and Mid-South. On Friday, Nov. 12, the Gauchos' current streak of 11 straight season-opening victories will be put to the test at 10th-ranked Michigan State, which advanced all the way to the NCAA Championship game in 2005. The UCSB-MSU showdown is slated for an 8:00 p.m. EST/5:00 p.m. PST tip-off in the Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Two days later, the Gauchos will find themselves in Louisville's Freedom Hall for a 12:00 p.m. EST/9:00 a.m. PST clash with the Cardinals, another squad that joined Santa Barbara in last year's Big Dance.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
Both games on UCSB's season-opening roadtrip will air live on KIST 1340AM in Santa Barbara with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and Ben Alkaly attempting color commentary. Broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". All of Santa Barbara's contests in 2005-06 can also be heard live via the internet by pointing your browser to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass". Finally, live "Gametracker" scoring for both of this week's games is available through UCSB's official athletic site as well.
The Gauchos opened 2005-06 receiving votes in both the ESPN/USA Today Top-25 Coaches' Poll and Associated Press Writers' Poll, but mysteriously lost their four total from the coaches in the latest rankings released Tuesday. UCSB can still boast one solitary point in the AP poll. Meanwhile, if Big West Conference coaches and media members are accurate prognosticators, then the Gauchos will win their unprecedented 11th consecutive regular season conference title in 2005-06. In polls conducted Wednesday, Nov. 2 at the league's annual media day in Irvine, Calif., six of the eight coaches picked Santa Barbara to repeat yet again, while nine of 10 media members in attendance did the same. Long Beach State was tabbed second in both polls.
A Look Back at 2004-05
In 2004-05 Santa Barbara extend its impressive streaks of Big West Conference regular season titles and NCAA Tournament appearances to 10 and nine straight years, respectively, but it was no easy task during an injury-riddled campaign that saw Gaucho players miss a collective 121 games. After falling to Idaho twice during the regular season, UCSB then trailed the Vandals by 11 points in the second half of the Big West Tournament championship game before storming back for a 79-67 win to earn an automatic berth in the Big Dance. As a No. 13 seed, Santa Barbara fell 61-51 to No. 4 Notre Dame in first round NCAA action in Fresno, Calif., but had rallied within four points in the waning minutes. The Gauchos finished with a 21-9 overall record and 16-2 mark in Big West play, marking the 10th straight year they have finished with 20 or more victories and 11th consecutive year with single-digit losses.
UC Santa Barbara alumnus Mark French is in his 19th season as head coach of the Gauchos and the 27th year of his immensely successful career. He currently owns a UCSB record of 380-164 (.699) and an overall mark of 478-278 (.632). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 14 years, French's Gauchos have won 11 Big West Conference titles and advanced to 11 NCAA Tournaments - including five second rounds and a Sweet 16 appearance - as well as one Postseason WNIT. 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.
Probable Starters Notes #34 Autumn Nichols Sr. F UCSB's top returning scorer and rebounder from 2004-05 #33 Jenna Green So. F/C Returns after missing last season with torn left MCL #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Member of two CIF Div. III State championship teams #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Set new career highs in every statistical category last year #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G 26th on list of California's top seniors by Grass Roots Sports
Reserves Notes #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Will serve one-game NCAA penalty vs. Michigan State #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Marin County Athletic League MVP in 2004-05 #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Buried 18 of final 35 three-pointers (51.4%) last season #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Limited to just six games as rookie due to groin injury #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F NorCal Hoops rated her as the region's No. 9 senior #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C 3.2 points, 2.5 rebounds per tilt during freshman season
In their lone exhibition game, the Gauchos were edged 74-72 by Cal State Bakersfield on Sunday, Nov. 6 in the Thunderdome. The NCAA Division II Roadrunners led 44-41 at intermission before UCSB opened the second period on an 8-0 run. That advantage was short-lived, however, as CSUB rallied to pull ahead by as many as seven points with 6:08 to play. The best Santa Barbara could do from that point forward was knot the score on three separate occasions. In the waning seconds Gaucho freshman guard Whitney Warren stole Bakersfield's in-bounds pass under the basket, but had the ball knocked away at the buzzer before she could attempt a potential game-tying shot.
Due to an overscheduling of permissible preseason competition, UCSB was forced to cancel its second exhibition game against Cal Poly Pomona slated for Friday, Nov. 11. The Gauchos participated in an Oct. 29 scrimmage with Westmont College, which counts towards the two dates of preseason competition allowed by the NCAA. Because she took part in the aforementioned scrimmage before her athletic eligibility had been certified by UCSB administrators, sophomore guard Jessica Wilson was issued a one-game penalty by the NCAA, to be served at Michigan State on Nov. 18; she will return to action two days later at Louisville. UCSB head coach Mark French accepted full responsibility for not having a complete understanding of the new NCAA bylaws regarding exhibition competition, which allows scrimmages between schools for the first time ever in 2005-06.
The Gauchos' .805 winning percentage since the start of the 1997-98 campaign places them in some rather elite company. Only Connecticut, Tennessee, Louisiana Tech and Duke have won a higher percentage of their games over the past seven seasons than UCSB, which owns a 206-50 record during that span.
Santa Barbara decade-long dominance of the Big West ranks as the longest current streak of outright conference championships in the entire nation. Louisiana Tech has captured 13 straight league titles - split between the Sun Belt and Western Athletic Conferences - but has shared top honors with other schools three times during its run. Meanwhile the Gauchos have never finished fewer than two games ahead of the pack, posting an 151-9 (.944) league record since 1995-96.
Scouting the Spartans
Fresh off the best season in program history, Michigan State tuned up for 2005-06 with a pair of exhibition wins in the Breslin Center. The Spartans cruised past Athletes in Action 94-67 on Nov. 2 before a much tougher 84-77 battle with NCAA Division II power Grand Valley State last Sunday. MSU - picked to finish second in the Big Ten Conference after finishing 2004-05 with a 33-4 overall record - returns a pair of honorable mention Associated Press All-Americans from 2004-05 in senior forward Liz Shimek (14.8 points per game) and senior guard Lindsay Bowen (13.8 ppg). In the only previous meeting between the two schools, Michigan State handed UCSB a 95-75 defeat on Dec. 19, 1997 during the Ala Moana Paradise Classic in Honolulu, Hawai'i.
Louisville, in its first season as a member of the Big East Conference, played its only exhibition contest on Monday, Nov. 14, cruising past the Hoosier Lady Stars 85-55. Junior center Jazz Covington scored 15 points in that contest and is looking to build on her 2004-05 campaign when she was named First Team All-Conference USA and an honorable mention AP All-American. Last season the Cardinals posted a 22-9 record and reached the first round of the Big Dance under head coach Tom Collen, who had UCSB assistant Carter Shaw on his staff from 2000-02 while at Colorado State. In their only prior meeting, the Gauchos topped UofL 78-67 to open the 2000-01 season at the Time Warner Cable Classic in Lincoln, Neb.
A pair of fifth-year senior co-captains will provide leadership for the Gauchos. Guard Karena Bonds started all 29 games she appeared in last season and is widely regarded as the team's top defender. The Morro Bay, Calif., native established new career highs in every statistical category, posting all five of her double-digit scoring efforts in 2004-05. Meanwhile post player Autumn Nichols averaged 9.9 points, 5.2 boards and 58.8% shooting while starting each of the final 21 contests as a redshirt junior. She is UCSB's top returning scorer and rebounder.
Sophomores, but Certainly not Sophomoric
UCSB also features a pair of former Big West All-Freshman Team members in guard Jessica Wilson and center Jenna Green. Wilson's rookie campaign in 2004-05 was highlighted by an 18-point performance at UC Riverside, while she led all Gaucho scorers with 15 during the exhibition loss to Bakersfield. Green earned her league honors in 2003-04 before suffering a torn left MCL early last season. In three games prior to her injury the San Jose, Calif., native averaged 13.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 65.5% shooting, gaudy enough numbers to earn herself a spot on the 2005-06 Preseason All-Big West Team. She barely missed a double-double vs. CSUB, tallying 11 points and nine boards during in the exhibition.
Santa Barbara's outside scoring punch will likely come from the guard duo of junior Erin O'Bryan and sophomore Ana Onaindia. O'Bryan ranked fourth in the Big West last season with a 36.7% three-point percentage, and ended 2004-05 on a tear by draining 18 of her final 35 attempts (51.4%) from beyond the arc. Onaindia was limited to just six games as a rookie due to a lower abdominal strain that lingered all year, but still managed to connect at 42.9% from three-point territory. She scored all but two of her 29 total points from downtown.
Who Are These Gals?
The Gaucho roster features four true freshmen, two of whom were considered among the best the Golden State prep ranks had to offer in 2004-05. Point guard LaShay Fears earned a No. 26 ranking from Grass Roots Sports on its list of California's top high school seniors, while post player Shantel Thomas - who actually played primarily in the backcourt last year - was ranked 45th by the same organization. Rookie guard Whitney Warren will be counted on as a defensive stopper, and knows what it takes to win in the postseason after helping Bishop Montgomery High School capture a pair of CIF Division III State titles. The newest Gaucho is point guard Kim Smith, who joined the squad in early October after earning Marin County Athletic League MVP acclaim as a high school senior last year.
Waiting in the Wings
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, UCSB announced the signing of two high school seniors to National Letters of Intent. Jordan Franey, a 6-0 forward from La Mesa, Calif., and Sacramento native Meagan Williams, a 5-10 guard, will join the Gauchos as true freshmen in 2006-07. Both were named to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Junior First Team last season, with Williams also earning Sacramento Bee 2005 Player of the Year acclaim. She will enter her senior year at Sheldon High School as a Street & Smith's honorable mention All-American. Meanwhile Franey garnered San Diego Union Tribune First Team All-County honors in 2004-05, averaging 21.2 points per game at Santana High School in Santee, Calif. In 2006-07 Santa Barbara will also gain the services of 6-1 junior forward Emily Niemann, a transfer from Baylor where she scored 19 points in the 2005 NCAA Championship game to help the Lady Bears win their forst-ever national title. In her two-year BU career, the Houston, Texas native averaged 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and a school-record 45.1% three-point percentage.
Sorry to See Ya Go
The Gauchos lost six letterwinners from 2004-05, including a trio of senior starters who each earned multiple postseason honors during their careers. Perhaps the biggest shoes to fill were those worn by forward Kristen Mann, a two-time AP honorable mention All-American who became a first round draft pick of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx. Her 19.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game last year both ranked among the top-31 players nationally, while Mann finished third on UCSB's career charts with exactly 1,700 points. All in all, Santa Barbara lost 60% of its scoring (1,283 of 2,137 points) and 56% of its rebounding (699 of 1,252 boards) from a season ago.
Taylor-James Leaves UCSB
On Monday, Nov. 14, head coach Mark French announced that 6'0" sophomore swing player Brittanie Taylor-James had left the Gaucho program due to personal reasons. The Evanston, Ill., native will remain at UCSB through the end of fall quarter and then seek a transfer. In 2004-05 she averaged 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 22 games played.
Doozy of a Schedule
In the annual quest to make their non-conference schedule one of the toughest in the nation, the Gauchos have once again succeeded in 2005-06. UCSB will play five games against teams which also reached the NCAA Tournament last year, including three straight to open the regular season. In addition to facing national runner-up Michigan State, a February showdown looms at Elite Eight participant Stanford. In addition, Santa Barbara will host regional rivals UCLA and Pepperdine in the Thunderdome after not facing either school for more than a decade.
On the Horizon
UCSB plays its home opener on Wednesday, Nov. 23, hosting 2005 NCAA tourney participant Richmond in the Thunderdome at 7:00 p.m. After Thanksgiving, it's quickly back on the road for a pair of games in Utah against BYU (Nov. 26) and Weber State (Nov. 28).