UCSB Opens Big West Play At Long Beach State, Cal State Northridge This Week
Jan. 2, 2008
Game No. 12
Thursday, January 3, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (5-6) at Long Beach State 49ers (2-9)
The Walter Pyramid (7,500)
Game No. 13
Saturday, January 5, 2008 at 4:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (5-6) at Cal State Northridge Matadors (0-10)
The Matadome (1,600)
After splitting two games at the Lady Griz Holiday Classic in Missoula, Mont. Dec. 28-29, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team opens Big West Conference play on the road this week seeking a 12th league championship in the last 13 years. UCSB begins its conference slate with a match-up at Long Beach State Thursday, January 3 at 7:00 p.m. After battling the 49ers, the Gauchos will take on Cal State Northridge Saturday with tip-off slated for 4:00 p.m. Looking further ahead, Santa Barbara will host UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton in BWC action in the Thunderdome next week.
For the Record
UCSB enters league play in second place in the Big West standings with an overall record of 5-6 after defeating the University of Mississippi in its final game of the Lady Griz Holiday Classic on Saturday. Santa Barbara is 2-3 in true road games this season and improved to 1-1 in neutral site contests with the win over the Rebels. The Gauchos, who have played five of the last six on the road entering Thursday's conference opener, will look to post back-to-back victories for the first time this season when they take on Long Beach State. UCSB was 19-14 overall in 2006-07 and finished second in the BWC standings for the first time in 12 years at 10-4. Santa Barbara was a very impressive 10-4 on the road last season.
Gauchos on the Air & Web
Both the clash with Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2007-08, will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Steve Wendt is in his fourth season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos and he will have the call live as the Gauchos take on the 49ers and Matadors this week. Yours truly will try not to scare away listeners while handling the color commentary duties for both games. If radio isn't your thing, you can watch all games live via the internet by going to www.bigwest.tv and purchasing the UCSB season package. For the third straight year the Big West Conference and CSTV are partnering to bring exclusive Big West Gaucho events to fans online. BigWest.TV offers on-demand access to LIVE coverage of Big West contests as well as press conferences, features, and Big West Championships.
Our Time of Year
With all but one game of yet another grueling non-conference schedule behind them, the Gauchos welcome the start of Big West play this week. Santa Barbara has been extremely successful against league competition over the years, winning 11 consecutive Big West titles from 1996-2006, one of the longest such streaks in the nation. In fact, Coach French's Gauchos have absolutely dominated Big West competition since the 1995-96 season, posting a tidy record of 171-17 (.910) against league foes. Although the Gauchos' stranglehold on the league during the regular season came to an end in 2006-07 when they finished second in the standings at 10-4, UCSB will undoubtedly be one of the teams to beat in conference play again this season.
Setting the Tone
UCSB has traditionally been extremely tough to beat in Big West Conference openers, winning 17 of its last 18 games to begin league play. In fact, the Gauchos had won 17 consecutive conference openers before dropping a 70-57 decision at defending Big West Tournament Champion UC Riverside last season. Prior to that, Santa Barbara had not lost a league opener since the 1988-89 campaign, Mark French's second year as head coach and UCSB's first season as a member of the Big West.
About The Coach
Mark French returned to his alma mater at the start of 1987-88 season and women's basketball at UC Santa Barbara has never been the same. In his 21st season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 420-198 (.680) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 518-312 (.624). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 16 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 three 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 was 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 and holds conference records for league wins and consecutive seasons at one school. French reached two major coaching milestones last season, winning his 400th victory at UCSB with a 78-67 Santa Barbara win over Pepperdine Dec.18 and then notched his 500th career victory overall when the Gauchos defeated Long Beach State Jan. 4.
Probable Starters - Notes
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Made just 1 of 13 shots during Lady Griz Holiday Classic.
G - Jessica Wilson - UCSB's leading rebounder at 5.4 boards per night.
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Led UCSB with 16 points against Ole Miss after going scoreless vs. Montana.
F - Whitney Warren - Posted season highs with six rebounds and two assists against Rebels.
F - Kat Suderman - Averaging 12.2 points over the last five games.
Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Lauren Pedersen - Recorded a career-high 10 points in win over Mississippi.
G - Meagan Williams - Erupted for a career-best 28 points on 12-for-16 shooting vs. Lady Griz.
G - Ariana Gnekow - Averaging just 9.2 minutes this season.
F - Ashlee Brown - Hauled in a game-high seven rebounds against Mississippi.
F - Jordan Franey - Averaging 2.0 points per game over the last three.
F - Margaret Johnson - Shooting 30.8% (4-of-13) from the field in 2007-08.
C - Jessie Goble - Tallied a career-high two rebounds and one steal in loss to Montana.
Gauchos Respond Against Ole Miss To Earn Split At Holiday Classic
After falling to two games below .500 with a disappointing loss to the University of Montana in the Lady Griz Holiday Classic opener, UCSB needed to turn things around the very next night against Mississippi in order to enter Big West play on a positive note. Fortunately, the Gauchos responded to the challenge and defeated the Rebels 74-66 to leave Missoula with a split. After a slow start in the game, Santa Barbara took its first lead at 9-8 and never looked back, leading by as many as 16 points in the convincing victory. The Gauchos shot 43.1% (31-72), while limiting Mississippi to just 39% (23-59) and held a 43-35 advantage on the glass against a very athletic Rebel squad. The win came despite a considerable discrepancy at the foul line, where Mississippi was 16-for-23, compared to just 8-of-9 for Santa Barbara. After just one player reached double figures in the 88-70 loss to the Lady Griz the night before, three players scored 10 or more against Ole Miss. Chisa Ononiwu led the way with 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting, bouncing back after a scoreless 0-for-4 performance against Montana. Kat Suderman was a very effecient 7-of-9 from the field and finished with 15 points, while Lauren Pedersen tallied a career-high 10 in her best all-around game as a Gaucho.
Scouting the 49ers
UCSB takes the court for the first time in 2008 Thursday night, squaring off with Long Beach State to kick off Big West play. The Gauchos and 49ers have locked horns a total of 65 times over the years and Santa Barbara leads the all-time series 37-28. UCSB swept both meetings with LBSU in 2006-07, defeating the 49ers 71-60 Jan. 4, before recording a 69-55 victory at the Walter Pyramid on Feb. 10. Long Beach State's last win in the series was a 58-52 home decision Jan. 7, 2006.
Mary Hegarty is in her fifth year as head coach of the 49ers and welcomes back all five starters and a total of 12 letterwinners from last year's squad that finished with an overall record of 9-23 and placed sixth in the Big West standings at 4-10.
Long Beach State enter's Thursday's match-up with an overall record of 2-9 after losing at the University of Utah 74-46 on Dec. 29. The 49ers, who were chosen to finish fifth by the coaches and fourth by the media in the Big West preseason polls, have lost seven of their last eight and have been outscored by an average of 13.4 points per game over that span. They are just 1-5 at home in 2007-08. For the season, LBSU averages 56.8 points through 11 games, but has given up an average of 69.2. Senior guard Tyresha Calhoun leads the team averaging 10.6 points per game, while shooting just under 50% from the field and averaging 2.2 assists per night. Junior center Kaiti O'Brien has started 10 games and is second on the squad averaging 8.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Lauren Sims is putting up 7.8 points per night and has knocked down a team-best 14 three-pointers.
The 49ers have been plagued by injuries this season, losing 2006-07 All-Big West Second Team selection Karina Figueroa for the year with a foot injury. The junior guard led the team averaging 10.9 points and 3.9 assists in seven games this season. Other notable injuries include sophomore guard Courtney Jacob, who appeared in five games before suffering a leg injury, and junior guard Valeriya Mussina, who has missed all but two games with an undisclosed ailment of her own.
With the win over Mississippi, UCSB has now had at least three players reach double figures in four of the team's five victories this season...Just one player reached double figures against Montana, marking the third time that has happed this season...The results of those contests were the Gauchos' three worst defeats of 2007-08...The starting lineup in Santa Barbara's win over Ole Miss marked the 10th different starting five head coach Mark French has used in 11 games this season...Although UCSB won just one out of two in Missoula, the Gauchos did an excellent job of distributing the ball, recording a season-high 18 assists in each game during the Lady Griz Holiday Classic...Santa Barbara has held a halftime lead in just four games this season, but has gone on to win all four of those contests.
Williams Erupts For 28 In Loss To Montana
One of the few bright spots in the Gauchos' 88-70 loss to Montana last Friday was the breakout performance of Meagan Williams. The sophomore guard finished 12-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-6 from behind the three-point arc, for a career-high 28 points. The Sacramento, Calif. native also tied a career mark with a game-high eight rebounds and finished with one assist and two steals in 26 minutes. The only Gaucho to reach double figures in the game, Williams eclipsed her previous high of 16 points that came at UC Davis last season. Additionally, the 28 points was the highest total by a Gaucho this year and was the most scored since Jenna Green tallied 29 against Cal Poly Feb 17. All told, Williams set new career-highs in points (28), field goals made (12), field goals attempted (16), three-point field goals made (4), and minutes played (26) against the Lady Griz. Williams earned her first-career start against Mississippi the next night and finished with four points, six rebounds, and a block in the Gauchos' 74-66 victory. She was named to the Lady Griz Holiday Classic All-Tournament Team for her performance.
Junior forward Kat Suderman continued her excellent play in the Gauchos' victory over Ole Miss last week. After finishing with a modest eight points and four rebounds in the loss to Montana, the San Luis Obispo, Calif. native bounced back with a stellar performance against the Rebels, scoring 15 points on a very impressive 7-of-9 effort from the field. Suderman also tallied a game-high seven rebounds, one assist, a block, and a steal in 29 minutes -- all of which were season-highs. The 15 points was just one shy of her high mark this season that came in the Gauchos' win over USC Nov. 11 and two shy of her career high of 17 that came in a game at UC Irvine in 2006. Suderman has proven that she is up to the task of taking over for Jenna Green down low, averaging 8.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11 games this season. She has been even better recently, averaging 12.2 points and 5.6 rebounds over the last five games. Suderman also earned a spot on the Holiday Classic All-Tournament team last weekend.
Another Gaucho that had a breakout performance in Missoula was junior guard Lauren Pedersen. Making her first start since Nov. 29 against Ole Miss, the transfer from UCLA got the nod at the two guard spot and the move paid off, as she finished with a career-high 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting. Pedersen was 2-of-4 from behind the three-point line and tallied two rebounds and four assists. That performance came after she tied a career mark with five assists and set a new career-high with three blocks in the loss to Montana the night before. The native of Brea, Calif. is averaging 4.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 11 games this season and leads all UCSB guards with seven blocks. Pedersen is averaging 4.7 assists over the last three.
Senior guard Jessica Wilson enters Big West Conference play this week just 112 points shy of becoming the 22nd player in program history to score 1,000 points for her career. The Sacramento, Calif native began the season with 774 career points -- 402 of which came last year -- and has scored a total of 114 through 11 games in 2007-08. Wilson is looking to join teammate Jenna Green as a member of the elite 1,000 point club and if she does, they will become the first duo to reach the plateau together since Kristen Mann and Mia Fisher did so in 2003-04 and 2004-05. Green scored her 1,000-career point February 17, 2007 against Cal Poly.
Green To Redshirt Rest of 2007-08 Season
The Gauchos will be without the services of Jenna Green for the rest of 2007-08. On Dec. 20 head coach Mark French announced that the senior center will redshirt the remainder of the season after missing five of UCSB's first nine games with back spasms. Green, who was granted a medical redshirt after tearing the medial collateral ligament in her left knee early in the 2004-05 season, will apply for a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after the season in hopes of returning for 2008-09. The two-time All-Big West FIrst Team selection leads Santa Barbara averaging 11.5 points and is second hauling in 4.5 rebounds in four games this season. UCSB is 2-3 without Green in 2007-08.
Gauchos Picked To Finish Second In Preseason Polls
For the first time in over a decade the Gauchos were not selected to win the Big West Conference regular season title by either the coaches or the media in voting conducted at the league's annual media day Oct. 25. UCSB finished second in both polls behind regular season and conference tournament champion UC Riverside, who received eight first place votes and 64 total points to capture the top spot in the preseason coaches' poll. Santa Barbara received one first place vote and 57 points, finishing a unanimous second. UC Davis was chosen to finish third with 44 points, while Cal Poly received the fourth place nod with 41. Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, Pacific, Cal State Northridge, and UC Irvine followed rounding out the poll. In the media poll, the Gauchos received one first place vote and 81 total points to finish second behind the Highlanders, who garnered nine first place votes and 89 points. Complete results of the voting can be seen at the bottom left of this page.
Green, Wilson Tabbed Preseason All-Conference
When the media selected a Preseason All-Big West Team at this year's annual media day, UCSB had two players selected, marking the sixth consecutive year a Gaucho made the squad. Senior center Jenna Green earned one of the six spots for a third consecutive year after earning All-Big West First Team honors last season. The San Jose, Calif. native led the Gauchos in points (16.6), rebounds (7.1), and blocked shots (1.7) for the second straight year, while shooting a league-best 53.7% from the field in 2006-07. Green was the only player to start all 33 games for UCSB last season. Also earning a nod for the preseason all-conference squad was senior guard Jessica Wilson. Wilson led the Big West averaging 4.5 assists and finished in the conference's top 10 in six major statistical categories. The Sacramento, Calif. native earned a second consecutive Second Team All-Big West selection after averaging 13.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in 31 games a year ago.
UCSB Inks Two For 2008-09
UC Santa Barbara signed a pair of high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during the early signing period, head coach Mark French announced Nov. 16. Emilie Johnson, a 5'6" point guard from Roseville, Calif. and Megan Kritscher, a 6'3" forward from Woodland, Calif. will join the Gauchos for the 2008-09 season as true freshmen. Johnson is in her senior season at Del Oro High School in Roseville, where she was named the 2006-07 Sierra Foothill League MVP after averaging 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 3.2 steals, while shooting 43% from the field as a junior last season. The only junior to earn a spot on the Sacramento Bee All-Metro First Team, Johnson led the Golden Eagles to 26-2 record and a third consecutive SFL championship a year ago. She is a three-time all-league selection and was named the Sonora Kiwanis Tournament MVP as a sophomore in 2006. Kritscher signs with UCSB after averaging 12.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 5.5 blocked shots per game as a junior at Pioneer High School last season. An All-Tri-County League selection, Kritscher scored a career-best 22 points while hauling in 11 rebounds and blocking three shots to lead the Patriots to a 44-30 victory over rival Woodland High School last year and recorded a career-high 10 blocks in a game against Inderkum. She was also an all-league performer in volleyball for PHS last season.