January 27, 2007

Ononiwu, Gauchos Roll To 89-55 Win Over Pacific

Jan. 27, 2007

Box Score

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara offense was firing on all cylinders Saturday, as the Gauchos made a school record 14 three-pointers on the way to an 89-55 thumping over Pacific in the Thunderdome. Junior guard Chisa Ononiwu was tremendous once again, finishing with a career-high 29 points on 9-for-14 shooting to lead UCSB to its seventh victory in eight games.

With the win, the Gauchos improve to 11-9 overall and maintain their position in the Big West Conference standings at 5-2. The Tigers lost for the fifth consecutive game, falling to 7-14 (1-6 Big West).

After UCSB scored just 20 points on 25% shooting in the first half of Thursday's loss to Cal State Northridge, the offense was definitely the story Saturday. The Gauchos made a very impressive 31-of-53 attempts from the field, a season-high of 58.5%. Santa Barbara was absolutely unconscious from behind the three-point arc, draining 14-of-18 attempts, 77.8%, which is a new school record. UCSB's previous high was 75% against North Texas in 1999. The 14 threes made is also a new program record, eclipsing the previous total of 12 that came against Arizona in January of 2002.

"Its pretty unbelievable considering some of the great, great three-point shooters we have had over the years," head coach Mark French said of the team's shooting performance from three-point territory. "I liked our aggressive attitude and our body language today. We came out attacking and shot the ball extremely well."

The Gauchos' total of 89 points was a season-high, eclipsing their previous best of 88 scored against Portland State in their season-opener. That point total was the most since UCSB scored 90 in an overtime win over UCLA December 17, 2005. Santa Barbara also tied a season-high in assists with 22 on 31 made baskets. The 34-point win was also a high in 2006-07.

Ononiwu continued to impress against UOP, shooting 64% from the floor. She scored 18 of her 29 points in the second half and easily erased her previous career-best of 20 points. Junior guard Jessica Wilson also shot the ball well, making six of her nine shots, including all three from distance, for 17 points. Sophomore forward Whitney Warren had another strong game, finishing a perfect 7-for-7 from the field for 14 points to go with six rebounds, two assists, and a steal.

The Tigers were led by sophomore forward Karen Dawkins with 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Senior guard Jerise Freeman tallied 17, finishing 6-of-9 from the field.

After Pacific's Kelsey Lavender opened the game with a three-pointer, UCSB used a 20-6 run keyed by seven points from Wilson to take an early 20-9 lead at the 10:56 mark of the first half. The Gauchos led by as many as 16 in the opening period at 28-12 after Ononiwu drained a triple at 4:26. Freeman scored the next six points as the Tigers pulled to within 10 at 28-18 and then again at 30-20, but Santa Barbara got a another three-point hit from Ononiwu with two seconds on the clock to take a 13 point lead into the locker room, 33-20.

That would be the closest Pacific would get the rest of the way.

The Gauchos came out roaring in the second half, using a crushing 17-6 run over the first 5:36 to build a commanding 50-26 lead with 14:24 remaining. UCSB increased its advantage to 30, at 62-32, roughly three minutes later and the margin ranged from 20-30 points in the final 10 minutes before ultimately ballooning to 37, at 89-52, after an Ononiwu jumper with 1:41 to play.

UOP used a similar attack to UCSB's last few opponents, constantly double and triple teaming Jenna Green. The Tigers limited the junior center to just seven points, but with the rest of the team shooting the ball like they were, their efforts proved feeble.

Eight of the nine Santa Barbara players that got in the game scored on Saturday. UCSB controlled the rebounds for the seventh time in the last eight contests, 33-17 to improve to 10-1 when out-rebounding the opposition this season.

The Gauchos will take on nationally ranked Stanford next Thursday, February 1 at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome before hosting UC Davis Saturday, February 3 at 2:00 p.m. in their final non-conference week of the season.