UCSB Hosts No. 20 Michigan State After Impressive Win at Pepperdine

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Dec. 19, 2006

The Schedule
Game No. 11
Wednesday, December 20, 2006 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. No. 20 Michigan State Spartans
The Thunderdome (6,000)

This Week
Returning to the court following a nine day lay off for final exams, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team came from 15 points down to defeat Pepperdine 78-67 Monday night in Malibu. Next up for UCSB is Big Ten power and 20th-ranked Michigan State as the Gauchos return to the Thunderdome to face their third nationally ranked opponent of 2006-07. Tip-off for Santa Barbara's showdown with the Spartans, who lost for just the second time this season Sunday against No. 7 LSU, is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. The Gauchos will be looking to avenge an 86-55 loss at Michigan State that came in last year's season opener.

The Gaucho Record
UCSB enters Wednesday's contest with an overall record of 4-6 after Monday's victory over the Waves. Since suffering the program's worst loss in 20 years at top-ranked Maryland Dec. 2, the Gauchos have won three of their last four, posting a 51-49 win at Richmond Dec. 4, a 62-57 home victory over Weber State Dec. 7, and the 78-67 come-from-behind win at Pepperdine. The Gauchos' only loss during that stretch was a 63-58 defeat at the hands of Loyola Marymount in the Thunderdome Dec. 9. Just 2-4 in the T-Dome so far in 2006-07, UCSB improved to 2-2 on the road with Monday's victory after finishing 5-5 away from home a year ago.

UCSB on the Air & Web
The game against the Spartans, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2006-07 will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Steve Wendt is back for his third season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos alongside former Los Angeles Laker and UCSB star Don Ford, who will provide most of the color commentary. Broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". 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.

Gauchos Shake Off Rust, Defeat Pepperdine 78-67
After trailing by as many as 15 points in the first half, the Gauchos out-scored the Waves 46-32 in the second, coming from behind to hand host Pepperdine its third loss in the last four games Monday night, 78-67. Jenna Green scored a game-high 21 points and LaShay Fears chipped in with 16, while junior transfer Chisa Ononiwu was impressive in her Gaucho debut with 11 points five rebounds, two rebounds, and two steals in 29 minutes. After the long lay off, Santa Barbara was slow to get things going early and Pepperdine raced out to a 31-16 lead at the 7:58 mark in the first half. Despite making just two of its first seven shots and committing seven turnovers in the game's first five minutes, the Gauchos responded with a 16-4 run in the final seven minutes of the period to pull within three, 35-32 at the break. After Fears stole the inbounds pass at the start of the second and scored to trim the deficit to just one, the Waves scored 11 of the next 13 points out of the locker room to pull ahead by 10, 46-36. Tailing 51-42 with 15:12 on the clock, Jessica Wilson scored on a fast break, Whitney Warren stole the ball and drove the length of the court for the lay-up, and Ariana Gnekow knocked down a pair of free throws to bring the Gauchos to within three, 51-48. Green's turn-around jumper at 9:39 tied the score at 53-53 and Gnekow's put back 30 seconds later gave UCSB its first lead, 57-55. The Gauchos' run continued as they scored the next eight points of the contest, capped by freshman forward Jordan Franey's lay-up, to take a 65-55 advantage with 4:42 left. UCSB was in control from that point forward and won for the second time on the road this season. Santa Barbara made 12-of-22 shots in the decisive second half and shot 44.2% for the game. The Gauchos also went to the free-throw line a season-high 44 times and converted 31, 70.5%.

Down to the Wire
As the Gaucho faithful have become accostumed to in the first month of the season, many of UCSB's games have come down to the wire. In fact, six of the Gauchos' last eight contests have been decided by 10 points or less and three of the last four have been decided by a margin of five or less. While Santa Barbara is just 2-4 in those games, both of those wins have come in the last four and were decided by two points and five points, respectively. The Gauchos defeated Richmond 51-47 Dec. 4 and then out-lasted Weber State 62-57 three days later. UCSB is 2-2 in games decided by more than 10 points this season.

Mr. 400
Mark French returned to his alma mater at the start of the 1987-88 season and women's basketball at UC Santa Barbara has never been the same. Now in his 20th season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 400-184 (.685) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 498-298 (.626). 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 two wins from his 500th career victory and collected his 400th win with UCSB's 78-67 defeat of Pepperdine Monday.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - LaShay Fears - Leads the team averaging 35.8 minutes per game.
G - Whitney Warren - Tallied nine points and eight rebounds in Monday's win at Pepperdine.
G - Jessica Wilson - Made 5-of-7 shots and finished with 13 points in first game back from ankle injury.
F - Jordan Franey - Team-leader with 14 three-point baskets, third shooting 29.8% from beyond the arc.
C - Jenna Green - Only Gaucho to score in double figures in all 10 games, leads squad averaging 16.6 ppg.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Scored 11 points with five rebounds, two assists, and two steals in Gaucho debut.
G - Meagan Williams - Missed contest with Waves after biking accident.
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Hit her first basket of 2006-07 in Dec. 9 loss to Loyola Marymount.
G - Kim Smith - Has played 26 minutes this season and has yet to attempt a field goal.
G/F - Ariana Gnekow - Scored career-high 11 points, with five rebounds, four assists against LMU.
F - Ashley Hall - Played for first time since Dec. 2 at No. 1 Maryland Monday night.
C - Jessie Goble - Second on the team with three blocked shots this season.

Scouting the Spartans
• UCSB returns to the Thunderdome and welcomes No. 20 Michigan State Wednesday in its final non-conference match-up before entering conference play after Christmas. Tonight's showdown with the Big Ten Conference power Spartans will mark the third meeting between the programs. MSU leads the all-time series 2-0 after handing UCSB a 95-75 defeat on Dec. 19, 1997 during the Ala Moana Paradise Classic in Honolulu, Hawai'i and defeating the Gauchos 86-55 in last year's season-opener.

• The Spartans enter the week with an impressive 7-2 record after winning five of their last six. Michigan State, ranked 20th in this week's AP Top 25, defeated Hartford 58-45 Dec. 9 before falling to No. 7 LSU 65-50 Sunday in their last two. Through nine games, the Spartans have outscored their opponents by an average of 65.9 to 55.4 and have out-rebounded the opposition by a 42.6 to 36.2 margin. MSU shoots 42.4% from the field while limiting opponents to just 33.5%. The Spartans have four players that average double figure points and senior guard Victoria Lucas-Perry is at the top of that list at 14.6 per game. Center Allyssa DeHaan has had a great start to her freshman campaign averaging 13.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per contest. Sophomore forward Aisha Jefferson is not far behind averaging 12 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest.

Green Machine
UCSB's most consistent offensive weapon in 2005-06, junior center Jenna Green has been getting it done in the post from the word go this season, as well. After establishing career highs with averages of 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots per game in 2005-06, Green enters tonight's game leading the Gauchos averaging 16.6 points and 7.8 rebounds. She has also recorded a team-high 13 blocked shots. Green has led the team in scoring in five of the last six games and is the only player on the roster who has scored in double-figures in all 10 games this season. The San Jose, Calif. native also leads UCSB in shooting at 56.8% (67-118) and has made at least half of her shots in all but one game in 2006-07. As far as Big West statistics go, Green ranks first in the conference in field goal percentage, second in both scoring and blocks, fifth in rebounding, and eighth in minutes played. After scoring 15 points in the 62-57 win over Weber State Dec. 7, Green led all scorers with a season-high 21 points in the Gauchos' loss to Loyola Marymount two days later. She also pulled down 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season, blocked two and recorded three steals. Green also scored 21 points, which the third-highest total of her career and just three points off of her career-high, Nov. 26 against North Carolina State, two days after finishing with 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in the Gauchos' loss to No. 24 Louisville. Most recently, she scored a game-high 21 points yet again, with seven rebounds, two blocks, and two steals to lead the Gaucho comeback against Pepperdine on Monday.

Junior Partner
Another player that must produce on a consistent basis for the Gauchos to be successful is junior guard Jessica Wilson. Wilson, who returned to the lineup Monday after sitting out UCSB's game with Loyola Marymount with an ankle injury, is second on the squad averaging 14 points per game. The Sacramento, Calif. native leads the team in both assists (3.5 per game) and steals (1.9) and ranks second and fourth in the Big West, respectively. Wilson is third on the team in rebounding at 5.2 per game. She has also made 8-of-24 three-point shots (33.3%), which is good enough for second on the squad. After scoring a career-high 30 points in the season-opener against Portland State and then tallying 28 on Nov. 17 against Oregon, Wilson struggled in the four games prior to her injury, averaging just 8.5 points, while making 11-of-45 shots overall (24.4%) and 2-of-11 from three-point range (18.1%). She had a great shooting night at Pepperdine two days ago, making five of her seven shots from the floor for 13 points. She also tallied seven rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes and her defense was critical in the Gauchos' come-from-behind win over the Waves.

Off on the Right Foot
Since transferring to UCSB from Baylor University in January, junior guard Chisa Ononiwu has had to sit on the sidelines and watch, waiting to become eligible to play. Her time finally came Monday in Malibu and the native of Houston, Tex made an immediate impact off the bench. Less than a minute after entering the game, Ononiwu made a driving three-point play along the baseline and continued to bring energy and hustle in the Gauchos' comeback victory. She finished with 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 29 minutes in her Gauchos debut.

Making a Name For Herself
If you were a follower of UCSB basketball and you hadn't yet heard freshman forward Jordan Franey's name, chances are that changed following her performance in the Gauchos' 62-57 win over Weber State Dec. 7. Franey led all scorers and finished with a career-best 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting, incuding 4-for-6 from three-point territory. She also hauled in 12 rebounds to record her first-career double-double as a Gaucho. The 22 points scored were the most by a freshman since Kristen Mann exploded for 27 at Pacific during her rookie campaign in 2001-02. Franey's career is definitely off to a good start as she is averaging 8.7 points and 4.2 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per game. Starting all 10 games this season, she has proven to be one of the Gauchos' biggest three-point shooting threats, leading the team with 14 treys and 47 attempts. She is third on the squad in three point percentage at 29.8%.

Point Taken
Sophomore point guard LaShay Fears enters tonight's contest with Michigan State averaging 8.8 points per game, the fourth highest total on the squad, and is second in three-point baskets with 12. She leads the team and is third in the Big West averaging 35.8 minutes per game in 2006-07 and, along with Jenna Green, is one of just two Gauchos to have played 30 or more minutes in all 10 games. Fears had her best performance this month Monday at Pepperdine, finishing 4-for-10 for 16 points with a game-high five assists and three steals. The Palmdale, Calif. native has scored in double-figures on two other occasions this season, tallying a season-high 19 points on Nov. 17 against Oregon and turning in 15 in the season-opener against Portland State.

The Warren Court
Since returning to the lineup after missing the Gauchos' game against Oregon with a concussion, sophomore guard Whitney Warren has started the last seven games and is averaging eight points per contest. She is second on the squad grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game, and third in field goal percentage, making 40.3% (31-77) of her attempts, and in minutes played at 32.4. Warren scored a career-high 18 points and added nine rebounds, equaling her second-highest total ever in the Nov. 24 loss to No. 24 Louisville. Two days later, she came back with another solid effort, recording 13 points and six rebounds. The 13 points were her second-highest total as a Gaucho and it marked the first time in her career that she had scored in double-figures in back-to-back games. After narrowly missing a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds Monday in the win over the Waves, Warren is averaging 6.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in UCSB's last three games. She has made 10 of her last 23 shots from the field in those contests, 43.5%.

Freshman Fortitude
Another freshman that continues to improve as the season goes on is Ariana Gnekow. She earned her second career start Dec. 9 against Loyola Marymount and made the most of it, finishing with a personal best of 11 points along with five rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 32 minutes. The Santa Ynez, Calif. native made three of her four shots against Weber State and finished with nine points, four rebounds, an assist, one block, and one steal. Through 10 games, Gnekow is averaging 6.0 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. She is third with 48 total rebounds and half of those have come on the offensive end of the floor. Gnekow has had five or more rebounds in six of the team's 10 games.

UCSB Lands Three Prized Recruits
On Wednesday, November 8, UCSB announced the signing of three high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during this year's early signing period. Ashlee Brown, a 6'0" forward from Good Year, Ariz., a 5'11" guard Courtney Collishaw of Visalia, Calif., and Margaret Johnson, a 5'11" forward from Lake Oswego, Ore. will join the Gauchos next season as true freshmen. Brown was named to the 2005-06 Arizona Tribune First Team and garnered First Team All-Fiesta Region accolades after averaging 21 points, 16 rebounds, five steals, four assists, and three blocked shots per game as a junior at Chandler High School. Collishaw signs with UCSB after earning Cal-Hi Sports All-State Junior Second Team honors at Redwood High School. She was named to the CIF Central Section First Team after scoring 22.6 points per game a year ago. Johnson enters her final season at Lake Oswego High School having guided the team to a second place league finish in 2006 at 10-4 and an 18-8 overall record. In 2007-08 Santa Barbara will also gain the services of 5'10" guard Lauren Pedersen, a junior transfer from UCLA. A native of Brea, Calif., she played two seasons with the Bruins, averaging 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in 54 career games while making 11 starts during that span. Pedersen will have two years of eligibility at UCSB starting next season.

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 a 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.

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 ppg and 2.6 rpg in 11.2 minutes per contest.

Another Blow...
Less than a month later, 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 this season as she rehabilitates 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.

Looking Ahead
Following this Wednesday's match-up with Michigan State, the Gauchos will have seven days off over the Holidays before opening Big West Conference play Dec. 28 at UC Riverside. The contest against the Highlanders will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. UCSB will then take on Cal State Fullerton two days later at 2:00 p.m.