Gauchos Host Pepperdine in Final Game of 2005
Dec. 26, 2005
Game 10 Friday, Dec. 30, 2005 7:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. Pepperdine The Thunderdome (6,000)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
3-6 overall/0-0 Big West Conference
3-1 home/0-5 away/0-0 neutral
Gauchos Return to Action Following Season-Long 10-Day Break
On the heels of two impressive home victories and a 10-day break from competition to celebrate the holidays, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball returns to action on Friday, Dec. 30 by hosting Pepperdine (3-8 entering this week). The Gauchos' final game of the 2005 calendar year and last contest before the start of Big West Conference play is slated for a 7:00 p.m. tip-off in the Thunderdome. Following a 0-5 start, Santa Barbara will be in search of its fourth win in the last five contests when facing the Waves.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
The UCSB-Pepperdine showdown will air live on KTLK 1340AM in Santa Barbara with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and "$1.98" Don Ford providing color commentary. The broadcast begins 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". All of Santa Barbara's games 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".
Santa Barbara Goes 2-0 vs. Pac-10 With Wins Over #24 UCLA and Arizona
The Gauchos commenced their season-long five-game homestand with arguably their two most impressive victories in over a year, defeating a pair of Pacific-10 Conference teams in the Thunderdome. On Saturday, Dec. 17, UCSB rallied from a 16-point second half deficit against 24th-ranked UCLA, capped in dramatic fashion when Jessica Wilson drove coast-to-coast and scored the game-tying layup as the buzzer sounded on regulation. In overtime, Wilson scored 11 of the home team's 16 points as Santa Barbara pulled away for a 90-81 victory, just its second over the Bruins in 15 all-time meetings and first against a ranked team since March of 2004. Two days later, the Gauchos led wire-to-wire and cruised to their most convincing win of the young season, an 86-63 triumph over Arizona. The Wildcats missed their first seven shots from the floor while going scoreless over the first five minutes, but rallied to cut their deficit to 46-38 with 15:07 remaining in the second half. Erin O'Bryan quelled that comeback with consecutive three-pointers, and UCSB never again led by less than 10. A late 7-0 run by the Gauchos - all courtesy of Wilson - put the game out of reach.
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.
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 383-170 (.693) and an overall mark of 481-284 (.629). 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 10 points, seven boards, five assists in win over UCLA #33 Jenna Green So. C Big West Conference-leading 55.8% field goal percentage #5 Jessica Wilson So. G 20.5 points, 10.0 boards, 5.5 assists over last two games #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Team-leading +1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio (24 to 18) #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Career-high 20 points vs. UCLA, seven assists vs. Arizona
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Averaging 13.3 minutes per game in reserve duty #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Scored second basket of career at Loyola Marymount #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Five three-pointers en route to career-high 20 points vs. UA #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Should return Friday after sitting out last two games #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Personal best six points, eight boards against Wildcats #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C 13 points during Arizona established new career-high
Peppedine's first showdown with UCSB in over 12 years will be the third of a five-game road swing for the Waves, which continues on Wednesday, Dec. 28 at Kansas. In their previous contest, the Waves lost a heartbreaking 81-75 decision at Long Beach State on Dec. 21. Entering Wednesday's game with KU, sophomore guard Daphanie Kennedy leads the Pepperdine attack at 12.0 points per game. The Gauchos and Waves have not met since Dec. 4, 1993, when Pepperdine scored a 75-62 victory on its home court in Malibu, Calif. That win gave the Waves a 12-10 lead in the all-time series.
Santa Barbara's 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. UCSB has won its last 43 contests against current members of the Big West, postseason included.
The Thunderdome...It's good for What Ails Ya
After playing five of their first seven games on the road and shooting under 40% for eight straight contests dating back to last season's finale, the Gauchos finally found their shooting touch at home against a pair of Pac-10 schools. UCSB shot a season-high in the upset win over UCLA - including a five-of-nine performance in overtime - and finished with its highest point total since a 93-58 win over Cal State Fullerton on March 12, 2003. Santa Barbara entered the UofA game having made just 28-of-148 three-point attempts (18.9%) in 2005-06 - and not more than six trifectas in any single contest - but hopefully rectified those problems with a nine-of-18 effort from behind the arc.
A solid indicator of UCSB's fortunes this season has been the battle of the boards. While opening their campaign with five straight losses, the Gauchos were out-rebounded each time, the first four by double-digit margins. Santa Barbara appeared to correct its problem by owning a commanding 53-31 edge on the glass while defeating Saint Mary's on Dec. 4, but was back to bad habits with a nine-board deficiency at LMU on Dec. 11 (another loss). However true to form, the Gauchos out-rebounded their two most recent opponents by six boards apiece, translating into a pair of victories. On the young season UCSB owns a -5.0 rebounding margin that is especially alarming considering the squad ranked seventh in the entire nation last season at +8.2.
One area the Gauchos' have shown consistency in this year is taking care of the basketball...relatively speaking. UCSB has not committed more turnovers than any of first eight opponents and owns a cumulative 149-179 edge on the season. Curiously, while coughing the ball up fewer times than any of the six teams that beat them, the Gauchos had an equal number of miscues as Saint Mary's both Saint Mary's and UCLA before committing a season-low 13 in the win over Arizona, which had 19 blunders. Santa Barbara's -0.79 assist-to-turnover ratio is better than all other Big West squads.
With their shots not falling at an especially impressive rate thus far in 2005-06 (just 336.7% overall), the Gauchos have had to ramp up their defensive intensity this season. After finishing 2004-05 with averages of 7.57 steals and 2.33 blocks per game that both ranked among the lower half of the Big West, UCSB has boosted those marks to 9.67 and 2.56 in the early season. Santa Barbara has already amassed double-digit steals four times in 2005-06 after doing so on just eight occasions all of last year.
The tallest Gaucho player has also been the team's most productive in 2005-06, and is showing little lingering effects of the torn left MCL that sidelined her nearly all of last season. Sophomore center Jenna Green enjoyed her second career 20-point performance in the win over UCLA - just two games after establishing career bests of 23 point and 12 rebounds vs. Saint Mary's for her first double-double as a Gaucho - but saw her string of double-digit scoring efforts end at eight games against Arizona. That streak helped the San Jose, Calif., native rank second in the Big West at 15.8 points per game, while her 55.8% field goal easily leads the league and shows why she was a choice for the six-player preseason all-conference team. Green is the only Gaucho currently shooting over 50%, and is connecting at an even better rate than the 53.3% clip she posted en route to earning Big West All-Freshman honors in 2003-04.
Can you say "break-out performances?" Gaucho sophomore guard Jessica Wilson certainly can, especially after recording the two highest scoring and rebounding totals of her career against UCLA and Arizona. None of Wilson's personal best 21 points vs. the 24th-ranked Bruins were more important that the coast-to-coast driving layup she converted to send the game into overtime, while she added 11 rebounds for her first ever double-double. The Sacramento, Calif., native was rewarded for her heroics with Big West Player of the Week honors - first for a Gaucho in 2005-06 - and then proved that performance was no fluke as she amassed 20 points, nine boards and a career-high six assists in the convincing win over Arizona. Wilson can boast four or more rebounds in all but one of her seven appearances, and currently ranks sixth in the Big West - right behind Green - at 5.9 per game.
Bonds, Karena Bonds
The Gauchos' jack-of-all-trades through nine games has been senior guard Karena Bonds, who owns steals (1.86) and assists (2.67) per game averages that rank ninth and 10th in the Big West, respectively, as well as an 85.2% free-throw mark that is third best. She can already boast two blocked shots after not recording a single stuff in any of her first 93 games as a collegian. The Morro Bay, Calif., native played a spirited game at Weber State, recording 12 points and a personal best 10 rebounds for her first career double-double. All but two of Bonds' points and all of her game-high four steals came after halftime when Santa Barbara was down to just seven healthy players.
She Dropped the Bomb on Me
Erin O'Bryan began her junior campaign on fire from beyond the arc, connecting on 13 of her first 30 three-point shots before having her season derailed after taking a charge at BYU on Nov. 28. She was sidelined for the next two games and upon her return misfired on eight-of-nine "trey" attempts, but officially declared herself healthy again during the Dec. 19 win over Arizona, burying five-of-seven trifectas - including a two straight after the Wildcats had pulled within 48-36 - en route to a career-high 20 points. The only downer for O'Bryan during the UofA game was the end of her streak of 19 consecutive made free throws dating back to last year. The Gilbert, Ariz., native currently leads the Big West with 2.71 made three-pointers per game, while her 39.6% connection rate from beyond the arc ranks fourth. Thus far, all but six of her 76 points have come from three-point land or the free-throw line.
UCSB has a tradition of great point guards, and may have found the next player in that long lineage in the form of freshman LaShay Fears. She has started each game thus far, including the season opener at 2005 NCAA runner-up Michigan State where she did not commit a turnover in 24 minutes of work. The Palmdale, Calif., native has gotten the green light to shoot more as of late, which translated into a personal best 20-point effort on eight-of-13 shooting during the Gauchos' upset of No. 24 UCLA. The next game, Fears dished off a career-high seven assists, while she is also one of three UCSB players ranked among the Big West's top-10 in steals at 2.00 per outing, tied with Wilson for fourth.
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. In 2006-07 Santa Barbara will also gain the services of a pair of junior transfers who helped Baylor capture the 2005 national title. Emily Niemann, a 6-1 forward, scored 19 points in the NCAA Championship game against Michigan State en route to Final Four All-Tournament acclaim. In her two-year BU career, the Houston native averaged 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and a school-record 45.1% three-point percentage. Meanwhile 5-7 guard Chisa Ononiwu will begin practicing with the Gauchos in January and becomes eligible to compete following fall 2006 academic quarter at UCSB. The Houston native averaged 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds in 13 games as a Lady Bear freshman in 2004-05.
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 finished the fall academic quarter and is now seeking a transfer. In 2004-05 she averaged 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 22 games played, with a career-high of eight scored against UC Irvine on March 3.
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 hosts regional rivals UCLA and Pepperdine in the Thunderdome after not facing either school for more than a decade.
On the Horizon
The Gauchos begin defense of their 10 consecutive Big West Conference regular season titles on Monday, Jan. 2, hosting UC Riverside in the Thunderdome at 7:00 p.m. Two nights later, Cal State Fullerton comes to town for another 7:00 Big West showdown as UCSB wraps up its season-long five-game homestand.