Nov. 22, 2005
Game 3 Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2005 7:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. Richmond The Thunderdome (6,000)
Game 4 Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005 3:00 p.m. PST Provo, UT
UC Santa Barbara at BYU Marriott Center (22,400)
Game 5 Monday, Nov. 28, 2005 6:00 p.m. PST Ogden, UT
UC Santa Barbara at Weber State Dee Events Center (11,500)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
0-2 overall/0-0 Big West Conference
0-0 home/0-2 away/0-0 neutral
ESPN/USA Today Rank: NR
Associated Press Rank: NR
Gauchos Have Won Last Eight Games in the Thunderdome
Fresh off a season-opening roadtrip that saw the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team criss-cross the United States, the Gauchos make their 2005-06 Thunderdome debut on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 7:00 p.m., putting their eight-game home winning streak dating back to last year on the line against Richmond. The Spiders (1-2 overall) will be UCSB's third straight opponent which advanced to the NCAA Tournament a season ago. With a win Santa Barbara would not only avoid an 0-3 start for the first time since 1993-94, but also prevent the program's longest losing streak since 1992-93. Following a break to celebrate Thanksgiving, it's quickly back on the road for a pair of non-conference games in Utah against BYU on Saturday, Nov. 26 and Weber State two days later.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
The UCSB-Richmond clash will air live on KIST 1340AM in Santa Barbara with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and "$1.98" Don Ford providing color commentary. In Utah, the Gauchos' showdown with BYU is also slated to air on 1340 before Wendt and color commentator-in-training Ben Alkaly move down the dial to KTMS 990AM while at Weber State. 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".
UCSB Stumbles on Season-Opening Road Trip to Michigan State and Louisville
The Gauchos began 2005-06 by facing two of the best teams the nation has to offer and came away with two convincing road defeats. On Friday, Nov. 18, UCSB's streak of 11 straight season-opening victories came to a halt with an 81-55 setback at 10th-ranked Michigan State, Santa Barbara's widest margin of defeat in nearly eight years. After digging themselves an early 27-4 hole in the Breslin Center, the Gauchos trimmed their deficit to 42-30 at intermission. The Spartans - who advanced all the way to the NCAA title game a year ago - led by just 11 points with 15 minutes to play, but pulled away thanks to a 52.5% shooting performance. Two days later the Gauchos found themselves three states away battling yet another 2005 Big Dance participant, and suffered a similar fate, a 76-56 loss at Louisville. Santa Barbara's only lead came at 4-2, before the host Cardinals - making their season debut - broke things open with a 19-3 first half run and never let their cushion dip into single-digits the rest of the afternoon in Freedom Hall.
The Gauchos opened 2005-06 receiving votes in both the ESPN/USA Today Top-25 Coaches' Poll and Associated Press Writers' Poll, but have subsequently dropped out of both. 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.
The Gauchos' .798 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-plus seasons than UCSB, which owns a 206-52 record during that span.
Probable Starters Notes #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Injured ankle Sunday at UofL; should return Wednesday #34 Autumn Nichols Sr. F UCSB's top returning scorer and rebounder from 2004-05 #33 Jenna Green So. F/C Team-high 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds through two games #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Three steals in each game of season-opening road trip #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G First UCSB rookie to start at point guard since 1996-97
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Made start at Michigan State in place of Wilson #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Buried first collegiate basket Sunday at Louisville #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G 30 of 34 points this year have come from three-point land #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Missed UofL game with ankle injury; probable vs. UR #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Missed UofL game with back injury; questionable vs. UR #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C Career-high eight rebounds in loss at Michigan State
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 380-166 (.696) and an overall mark of 478-280 (.631). 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.
One positive the Gauchos brought back from their season-opening roadtrip was an ability to limit their turnovers. At Michigan State, UCSB coughed the ball up only 16 times, compared to 19 miscues by the defending NCAA finalists. Santa Barbara's turnover total grew to 20 in a more fast-paced game against Louisville, however the Cardinals were guilty of 24 errors. No individual UCSB player committed more than four turnovers in either game.
Maybe it was the chilly temperatures back east, but Gaucho shooters were generally ice-cold at MSU and UofL. The 10-time defending Big West champs shot a collective 34.7% (41-of-118) during their first two games, with their only respectable half of basketball being a 42.9% clip during the opening period at Michigan State. UCSB's field goal production was even more forgettable from beyond the arc as it made just 11-of-49 (22.4%) three-point attempts, with all but one of those trifectas coming from junior guard Erin O'Bryan.
And the Ugly...
After ranking seventh nationally with a +7.2 average rebounding margin a season ago, perhaps the most surprising statistic from last weekend was how soundly Santa Barbara got beaten on the glass. Both the Spartans and Cardinals won the battle of the boards by double-digit margins, with Louisville's 49-28 rebounding advantage being the Gauchos' widest deficit since a Dec. 14, 2003 loss at Florida (-25). As a comparison, in 2004-05 UCSB was only out-rebounded five times, and never by more than four boards.
Scouting the Spiders
Fresh off its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 14 years, Richmond sports an early 1-2 record in 2005-06, splitting its two games in the Preseason WNIT before falling 69-57 at James Madison last Friday. Junior forward Christina Campion is the Spiders' leading scorer at 13.7 points per game, while the squad also features Santa Barbara native Araceli Gil, a four-year starter at point guard. She was one of two current UR players to face the Gauchos on Dec. 28, 2002, an 82-72 decision won by UCSB at the Holiday Classic in Fort Collins, Colo. That evened the all-time series standings at 1-1, with Richmond's win coming in 1989-90.
BYU opened its season with a come-from-behind 76-59 win at Cal State Northridge on Nov. 19, and concludes its Golden State swing this Tuesday at UCLA. The Cougars - picked to finish sixth in the Mountain West Conference - advanced to the first round of the Postseason WNIT in 2004-05. The Gauchos lead the all-time series 4-1 and have won their last three meetings with BYU, including a 65-51 decision in the Thunderdome on Jan. 2, 2003.
What About the Wildcats?
Excellent question...I'm glad I asked myself that. Weber State rebounded from a season-opening 55-48 loss at Southern Illinois by defeating Saint Louis 80-70 on the road Monday night. The Wildcats play their home opener on Friday, Nov. 25 against Air Force before hosting UCSB three days later. It will be the first-ever meeting between the Gauchos and WSU.
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.
The tallest Gaucho player was also the team's most productive at Michigan State and Louisville, and showed little lingering effects of the torn left MCL that sidelined her early last season. In her first regular season game since suffering the aforementioned injury on Dec. 2, 2004, Jenna Green racked up 17 points and seven rebounds at MSU, then upped those numbers to 19 and eight vs. the Cardinals, scoring 12 after halftime. That point total led all players and equaled her career high, showing why the sophomore center was a choice for the Preseason All-Big West Team. Through two games Green is shooting an even 60% (15of-25), even better than the 53.3% clip she posted en route to Big West All-Freshman Team in 2003-04.
She Dropped the Bomb on Me
After making 18-of-35 three-pointers to close last season, junior guard Erin O'Bryan is launching long bombs at an alarming rate in 2005-06, and fortunately for Gaucho fans they are still going in with tremendous regularity. Following a rough first half at Michigan State, the Gilbert, Ariz., native found her stroke and drained four of 14 shots from beyond the arc, one-shy of the single-game school record for three-point attempts. Two days later O'Bryan needed only 10 shots from downtown to drain a career-high-tying six trifectas, accounting for all of her 18 points which also equaled a personal best. Through two games, all but two of her 26 shots and four of her 34 points have come from three-point land. O'Bryan's remaining four points were scored at the charity stripe, where she has a streak of 13 straight made free-throws dating back to last season.
After seeing UCSB players miss a collective 121 games last season, the dreaded, mythical injury bug has already struck again in 2005-06. At Louisville sophomore guard Jessica Wilson went down with an ankle injury after colliding with a teammate early in the second half, but appears to have made a speedy enough recovery to suit up vs. Richmond. Meanwhile sophomore guard Ana Onaindia sat out the aforementioned contest with an ankle injury of her own, while a back ailment forced freshman forward Shantel Thomas to do the same. Onaindia - who missed all but six games as a rookie due to injury - is expected back for the home opener, however Thomas' status is uncertain.
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 first-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
Looking ahead, the Gauchos play their first of two straight games against West Coast Conference schools on Sunday, Dec. 4, hosting Saint Mary's in the Thunderdome at 7:00 p.m.