Gauchos Open Conference Play at Long Beach on Thursday

Gauchos Open Conference Play at Long Beach on Thursday

Dec. 28, 2010

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• The Schedule
Thursday, December 30, 2010, at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State (2-11)
at Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid (5,000)
Series record vs. the 49ers - 43-20
Streak - Won 1
Last time out vs. the 49ers - W, 73-50 in BW Tourn. (3/11/10)
Game broadcast streaming live online by clicking here and on AM 990 KTMS
Live stats available via Gametracker
Live video available through BigWest.TV

Thursday, January 6, 2011, at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Davis (10-2)
at UCSB's Thunderdome (6,000)
Series record vs. the Aggies - 11-6
Streak - Lost 3
Last time out vs. the Aggies - L, 63-53 in BW Tourn. (3/12/10)
Game broadcast streaming live online by clicking here and on AM 990 KTMS
Live stats available via Gametracker
Live video available through BigWest.TV

• On The Radio
All UC Santa Barbara basketball games are broadcast live in Santa Barbara on AM 990 KTMS and will stream live online by clicking here. Josh Suchon is the voice of the Gauchos, performing the play-by-play, while former Los Angeles Lakers and UCSB star Don Ford will handle the color commentary. On select road games, much to the chagrin of the listening audience, yours truly, Matt Hurst, will provide color commentary.

The Opponents

• at Long Beach State, 12/30
UCSB opens Big West play at Long Beach State, a team which finished the 2009-10 regular season in fourth place in the conference but has opened just 2-11 this season. The last time the teams met was a 23-point UCSB win in the Big West Tournament in March, the largest margin of victory by the Gauchos over the 49ers since a 91-60 win on Feb. 20, 2000.

• vs. UC Davis, 1/6
The Aggies, last season's Big West regular-season champs, are ranked in the top-10 of the latest Mid-Major poll. Head Coach Sandy Simpson has announced that he will retire at the end of this season. UCD's Heidi Heintz was named the Big West's Player of the Week.

• Probable Starters - Quick Fact
G 10 Emilie Johnson - Has scored in double digits in five of her past six games
G 24 Angelei Aguirre - Shooting 44.4% but hasn't scored more than 6 points in any game
G 2 Kelsey Adrian - Leads team with 34.6 minutes per game
F 32 Margaret Johnson - Two field goals at Siena were a season-high
F 44 Mekia Valentine - On pace for 135 blocks this season after swatting 120 last year

• Probable Reserves - Quick Fact
F 1 Sweets Underwood - Her 63.2% field goal pct is tops in the Big West
G 3 Nicole Nesbit - In last four games is avg. 10.0 points, 3.0 steals and 3.5 assists
G 11 Stefanie Corgel - Has seen court time in each of last two games
F 15 Adaeze Okolie - Played just two minutes on NY trip
G 22 Melissa Zornig - Scored a career-high 13 points in victory over Siena
G 33 Destini Mason - Four points, two rebounds in 10 minutes at Siena

• Conference Openers
Only once in the last 15 seasons has UC Santa Barbara dropped a Big West Conference opener - a 70-57 defeat at UC Riverside on Dec. 28, 2006.

• Evening Things Up
By winning six of their past eight games, the Gauchos head into conference play with a .500 record - marking the first time since the 2003-04 season the team has opened conference action with a .500 record or better.

• Biggest in the Big West
Regardless of how UCSB is doing heading into Big West action, the Gauchos have dominated the conference for more than a decade. Since the 1995-96 season, UCSB is 214-26 (.892) in Big West games.

• 20 Years ... And Counting
By finishing with a 9-7 conference mark last season, it extended UCSB's Big West streak to 20 straight seasons that the Gauchos have had an above-.500 mark in league play.

• As Pat Benetar Said: Hit Me With Your Best Shot
In two of UC Santa Barbara's past three games the team has shot over 55% from the floor, including an incredible 58.8% vs. Fresno State. In the Gauchos' past eight games - in which the team is 6-2 - UCSB is shooting 45.9% from the floor. This eight-game streak has risen Santa Barbara's overall shooting percentage from 35.0% before the streak, to its current 42.0%, also raising the team's ranking from last among Big West schools to second-best. The Gauchos have shot no lower than 42.9% in any of their wins this season.

• Tenacious D
In each of the past two seasons, UCSB has led the Big West in opponent's field goal percentage and are doing it again this year. UCSB is allowing teams to shoot 35.1% from the floor. Six times this season Santa Barbara hasn't allowed opponents to shoot over 35% from the floor, winning four of those games. Last season the squad ranked 31st in the nation with its 36.3%. In 2008-09 UCSB ranked eighth in the country with a 34.6% clip.

• Swat Team
As a team, the Gauchos are averaging 5.5 blocked shots per game, easily the best mark among Big West schools and Mekia Valentine leads the league with 4.5 blocks per game. Last season UCSB was sixth in the nation with an average of 6.3 swats per game.

• Mekia's Block Party
Mekia Valentine, who set a UCSB record last season with 120 blocked shots, is averaging 4.5 blocked shots per game, ranking her among the top-five in the country. In just over one season as a Gaucho, Valentine ranks fourth all-time in school history with 174 blocked shots, just six shy of Kris Grazzini (1992-96) for third and seven away from Jenna Green (2003-09) for second.

• Double Down
There is a chance that two Gauchos could become the first to average a double-double since Erika Kienast had 15.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in 1991-92. Sweets Underwood is averaging 10.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while Mekia Valentine is averaging 9.8 points and 7.9 boards per contest. The duo rank 2-3 in the Big West in rebounds.

• Not the Jumpman, but Em-J
Over her past six games - in which she's hit double figures in five of them - Emilie Johnson is averaging 15.3 points per game. The junior guard leads the team in scoring with her 12.4 points per game - ranking her eighth in the Big West - and has led the Gauchos in scoring in six games this season. Last year Johnson became the first sophomore to lead the team in scoring since Jenna Green did so in 2005-06.

• Inside the Arc, Inside the Basket
Take away UCSB's 26.3 shooting percentage from downtown and the Gauchos are hitting 48.9 percent of their two-point field goals.

• Baby, It's Cold Outside
Although the Gauchos have been shooting a solid 45.9% in their past eight games, it's even more impressive considering that the team has struggled from three-point range (however, the team has hit a season-best seven treys in each of its past two games). Overall this season Santa Barbara is shooting a meager 26.3% from downtown. The lowest three-point percentage by a Gaucho team was in 2005-06 when UCSB hit just 26.2% of its treys. Last season UCSB connected on only 28.3% of its bonus bombs, the sixth-lowest mark in school history.

• Walter Payton Was Sweetness, but We'd Rather Have This One ...
Only twice this season has sophomore forward Sweets Underwood failed to score at least eight points and she is second on the team with 10.4 points per game. Underwood has scored in double figures in seven of her past 10 games and has grabbed at least six rebounds in all but two games this season. The Compton, Calif. native leads all Big West players with her 63.2 field goal percentage.

• We're a Boarding School
Santa Barbara is averaging 40.6 rebounds per game, ranking it second among Big West schools, trailing only Pacific's 40.7 boards per contest. The Gauchos have been good at both ends of the rebounding spectrum, ranking second in the conference in offensive boards (13.6 per game) and first in defensive rebounds (27.0 per game).

• Zornig Zeroing In
After struggling with her shot - she failed to score in three of five games at one point - freshman Melissa Zornig is showing that she is a scorer as billed upon her arrival at UCSB. Zornig dropped in a career-high 13 points in the victory over Siena as she made 4 of 8 field goals, including 3 of 5 from three-point land. The Coto de Caza, Calif. native is averaging 5.4 points per game.

• This Little Nicky is Far Better Than Adam Sandler's
Five-foot-five Nicole Nesbit has been terrific in her past four games, twice setting career-highs in points and also setting a new standard in rebounds, steals and assists. In that stretch Nesbit is averaging 10.0 points, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals per game to go along with 3.0 rebounds per game. Overall this season the Northridge, Calif. native is averaging 5.4 points, 2.3 assists and 1.2 steals per game this season.

• Yo Adrian!
Though she's failed to break double digits in two of her past three games, junior Kelsey Adrian still leads all Gaucho players with eight games scoring at least 10 points. Despite that ability to score, the Langley, British Columbia native has only led the team in scoring three times this year. Adrian is third on the team with 10.3 points per game this season.

• Nothing Free About Them
It appears that UCSB may have turned the corner on its free throw shooting. In the Gauchos' past two games the team is shooting 76.2% from the charity stripe (16-for-21). In the team's previous eight contests UCSB hit just 58.4% (83 of 142) from the line. On the year UCSB is shooting 63.8%, ranking it seventh in the nine-team Big West. Two seasons ago, in 2008-09, UCSB set a school record with its 75.7% free throw percentage. That on-the-mark clip was also the 13th best in the nation that season.

• Rank and File
While UCSB has lost its two games vs. Top-25 opponents the Gauchos will next test their mettle vs. UC Davis on Jan. 6. The Aggies are rated No. 8 in the Top-25 Mid-Major poll. Also ranked among Gaucho opponents in the poll are St. Mary's (receiving votes), UC Riverside (receiving votes) and Cal State Bakersfield (receiving votes).

• Early Birds
UCSB is 4-4 in games tipping off before 5 p.m. this season and in Lindsay Gottlieb's tenure the Gauchos are 28-16 (.636) in day games.

The Lindsay Gottlieb File
Lindsay Gottlieb is in her third season as the Gauchos' head coach, and she is just the fourth head coach in UCSB women's basketball history. Last season Gottlieb guided the Gauchos to wins in seven of the squad's last eight games, taking a team that finished 9-7 in the Big West to the conference tournament's semifinals, keeping alive a streak of 20 years that UCSB had finished Big West play with a record above .500. In her first season at the helm, Gottlieb led the team to a 22-10 overall mark (15-1 in the Big West) and the Big West regular-season and tournament championships. Named the Big West Coach of the Year, Gottlieb became the first coach in Gaucho history to win at least 20 games and the Coach of the Year award in her first season - and one of only seven coaches nationwide to do so. Gottlieb led the Gauchos to their 14th consecutive postseason appearance and the team won 20 games for the 12th time in the past 14 years. In her first two seasons with the program, Gottlieb has guided the Gauchos to national prominence, leading the conference in field goal percentage defense both years while having her team set a school record in free throw percentage (08-09) and blocked shots in a season (09-10).. No stranger to success, Gottlieb was formerly the associate head coach at Cal, helping the team to a 68-28 (.708) overall mark in her time there. Prior to that, Gottlieb was an assistant at the University of Richmond, where she helped the Spiders to three straight 20-win seasons.

The Gaucho Fund, launched as part of the Dare to Be Great strategic plan, is UCSB Athletics' annual giving program to provide vital funding support for scholarships, academic success and leadership development for Gaucho student-athletes. The Gaucho Fund is the anchor to the Dare to Be Great campaign.

GKids is the official kids club of UCSB Athletics. Members receive a free GKids t-shirt, free admittance to tons of Gaucho games, opportunities to be ball boys and girls at games, a special birthday greeting from Olie (the GKids mascot) and much, much more! For more information on GKids, or to become a member, please click here.