Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Irvine (4-22, 1-11)
at The Thunderdome
Last time: W, 80-62 (2/11/16)
All-time Record vs. Anteaters: 60-30
Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at Cal Poly (13-13, 6-7)
at Mott Gymnasium
Last time: W, 78-67 (1/7/16)
All-time Record vs. Mustangs: 52-25
Records as of 2/24/16
Home Finale, Rivalry Saturday
The Gauchos will be opening this week with their final home game of the season against UC Irvine. The last time the teams met was at the Bren Events Center where UCSB cruised to an 80-62 victory (2/11/16). In that game, Onome Jemerigbe and Je Zhé Newton each set their career highs with 20 points and 16 points, respectively. The Gauchos haven't seen Cal Poly since their conference opener on Jan. 7 when they ended their nine-game losing streak to the Mustangs with a 78-67 decision. UCSB shot a conference season high 55.6 percent from the field and went a combined 9-for-18 from three-point range. On Saturday, the Gauchos will be seeking their first regular season sweep of Cal Poly since the 2008-09 season.
UCSB split last week's competition with a 70-58 win over Cal State Northridge followed by a heartbreaking 58-55 loss to Long Beach State. The Gauchos were able to overcome a 20-6 deficit against the Matadors thanks to a 24-6 run in the second quarter. The team's loss to Long Beach State came at the cost of them claiming the fourth spot in the league standings. The Gauchos held a one-point lead with 58 seconds to go, but a turnover allowed the 49ers to take over at 57-55, which led to their eventual victory.
The Roaring 20s
Makala Roper has become one of the most impactful Gauchos on this year's roster as the team's leading scorer (12.3 ppg) with five 20-plus point performances under her belt. Along with her recent 25-point performance versus Cal State Fullerton (2/3/16), Roper has surpassed the 20-point mark twice in conference play and came up one-point shy of hitting 20 against Cal Poly (1/7/16).
Three of a Kind
Roper enters this week as the Big West's sixth-leading scorer with 333 points. That number is actually quite fitting for Roper who has done the bulk of her scoring from three-point territory. Currently, the sophomore owns the fourth-best three-point shooting percentage in Big West play with a 42.9 clip. She also co-leads the league with UC Riverside's Brittany Crain with 33 made three-pointers in conference action. Overall, she has netted 55 shots from downtown (fifth in the league), accounting for 165 of her total points this season.
Entering this week, UCSB owns the third best shooting percentage in league play at 43.7. Jasmine Ware leads the team and ranks eighth in the conference with a 50.4 shooting percentage, while Je Zhé Newton sits in the 10th spot with her 49.4 percent shooting clip. The team's leading scorer Makala Roper is knocking down 41.3 percent of her looks in league, as she has netted 163 points, which is tied for ninth in the conference. This has been a turnaround year in shooting category, as UCSB ranked last in the 2014-15 season with a team 37.3 league shooting percentage.
Entering this week, UCSB is averaging the fourth-most points in Big West action with 65.9 points per game. UC Riverside leads the category with an astronomical 84.8 average, but the Gauchos are close to Hawai'i's 66.4 and UC Davis's 69.9 marks. This year has shown a dramatic improvement for the team in the scoring column, as they scored 49.1 ppg in league play last year.
Since the start of conference play, the Gauchos have been undefeated during their midweek match ups (Wednesday and Thursday). With a 6-0 record in those games, UCSB has outscored its opponents by an average of 16 points. If you do the math, you'll find the Gauchos are 1-6 on Saturdays. But what you will also find is that UCSB has only lost to the four teams that are ahead of them in the conference standings (UC Riverside twice, Hawai'i once, UC Davis once, and Long Beach State twice). Together, those four teams have a .672 winning percentage (37-18) in league play.
Saturday Night's Alright
UCSB has also put up some of their best efforts in those Saturday match ups, as they hit their highest scoring total in conference play at UC Riverside with 81 points, while their home losses to Hawai'i and Long Beach State were just by a combined four points. Additionally, their 65-49 win at Cal State Northridge ended a four-game losing streak to the Matadors that dated back to 2014.
In shrugging off back-to-back four-point efforts at UC Irvine (2/11) and Long Beach State (2/13), Jasmine Ware bounced back with standout offensive performances last week against CSUN and Long Beach State. She first led all bench players with 10 points in the Gauchos' 12-point win of the Matadors, and later finished with a team-high 16 points and career-high eight assists in a narrow loss to LBSU. Between those games, the senior shot 52.4 percent from the field, averaged 13 points per game, and produced 11 assists that led to 28 points. Overall, she was responsible for an average of 27 points that week or 43.2 percent of the Gauchos' total offense.
A Helping Hand
Onome Jemerigbe is currently one of the Big West's top distributors, as she is pacing UCSB with 4.0 assists per game and is leading the Big West with 5.4 apg in conference play. Perhaps the junior's best performance this season was her 11-assist game against Cal State Fullerton (2/3/16). She also had 10 dimes at UC Davis (1/21/16), which was her first career double-digit assists game.
Though only a freshman, Coco Miller has been one of UCSB's top scorers from the start of the season, as she is currently third on the team with a 9.6 ppg average. The guard is also second only to Roper for the most three-pointers on the roster with 50, ranking seventh in the Big West. Since the start of league play, she has averaged two three-pointers per game and has netted four in single game twice (at UC Riverside, vs. Cal State Fullerton). The freshman has also shown she can set up plays for her teammates, as she is third on the team with 54 assists, behind only Onome Jemerigbe (107) and Makala Roper (72) who both play part or full time at point guard.
Center of Attention
Je Zhé Newton is coming off her second career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds against Long Beach State. She also logged a personal best 29 minutes in the game. Her previous double-double came against Hawai'i when she finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. The center has also been a force on the defensive side of the floor with 26 blocks, ranking eighth in the league. Most recently, she recorded a conference-high four blocks against Cal State Fullerton (2/3/16); marking the second time she has reached the four-block plateau this year.
UCSB has been among leading Big West teams in steals, averaging 9.2 overall (second) and 9.5 in league play (third). Overall, the team has reached double figures in the steal category in 11 games this year, including three of the past four with 11 at UC Irvine, 12 at Long Beach State, and 14 versus CSUN. In conference play alone, Onome Jemerigbe leads the league with 27 swipes, while Jasmine Ware sits in fourth with 24. Along with Coco Miller (21 steals, fifth) and Chaya Durr (20 steals, t-sixth), UCSB has the most players in the conference's top-10 in steals during league play.