Jan. 6, 2006
Game 13 Saturday, Jan. 7, 2006 2:00 p.m. Long Beach, CA
UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State Walter Pyramid (5,000)
Game 14 Monday, Jan. 9, 2006 7:00 p.m. Irvine, CA
UC Santa Barbara at UC Irvine Bren Events Center (5,000)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
6-6 overall/2-0 Big West Conference
6-1 home/0-5 away/0-0 neutral
Gauchos Have Won Last 45 Games Against Current Conference Foes
Riding a five-game winning streak and boasting a .500 record for the first time this season, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team travels south a pair of Big West Conference contests. The Gauchos will be in search of their fist road win of 2005-06 when facing Long Beach State (7-5 overall, 0-0 in league play), a team they have defeated 28 straight times since 1994. Tip-off in the Walter Pyramid is slated for 2:00 p.m. Two days later, UCSB will find itself in UC Irvine's Bren Events Center for a 7:00 p.m. conference showdown with the Anteaters (2-10, 0-0). The Gauchos enter this road swing riding a 45-game winning streak against current members of the eight-team Big West - postseason included - dating back to 2003.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
Both upcoming games will be broadcast by Clear Channel of Santa Barbara with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and Ben Alkaly attempting color commentary. Due to prior broadcast commitments, Saturday's game in Long Beach will air on a tape-delayed basis beginning at approximately 4:00 p.m. on KTLK 1340AM, and there will be no internet simulcast of this contest; Clear Channel offers its sincere apologies. There will, however, be live streaming video and audio of the UCSB-LBSU clash at www.longbeachstate.com. Meanwhile Monday's action from Irvine can be heard live on KTMS 990AM as well as via internet by pointing your browser to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass".
Gauchos Open Big West Play, Conclude Homestand with Wins Over UCR, CSF
UCSB's longest homestand since 1992-93 resulted in five victories without a single defeat, the final two coming against UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton in the Thunderdome. On Monday, Jan. 2, UCSB won its Big West opener for the 11th straight year with its most convincing victory thus far in 2005-06, a 73-48 triumph over UCR in the Thunderdome. Holding a slim 9-8 advantage at the 13:39 mark of the first half, Santa Barbara embarked on an 11-0 run spanning the next three minutes that was book-ended by three-pointers from Karena Bonds. The Gaucho lead would not dip into single-digits the rest of the way, while the Highlanders' 48 points were the fewest surrendered by UCSB this year. It was a different story two nights later as Santa Barbara did not hold a lead of any sort for the first 30 minutes against Fullerton, but rallied thanks to a 9-0 run after falling behind 43-36 at the 13:04 mark of the second half. A late string of seven unanswered Gaucho points then insured their 24th consecutive win over CSF since 1996.
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 a 153-9 (.944) league record since 1995-96. UCSB has won its last 45 contests against current members of the Big West, postseason included.
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 386-170 (.694) and an overall mark of 484-284 (.630). 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 Game-high 14 points vs. CSF ended brief scoring drought #33 Jenna Green So. C Reigning Big West Conference Player of the Week #5 Jessica Wilson So. G 13.8 points, 8.4 boards, 4.4 assists over last five games #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G 13.0 points with 10 assists and no turnovers in league play #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Career-high 20 points vs. UCLA, seven assists vs. Arizona
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Matched career-high of four points in each of last two games #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Averaging 6.8 minutes per game in reserve duty #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G 71 career three-pointers rank seventh in UCSB history #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Returned to action Wednesday after missing four games #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Held scoreless by CSF for first time in last five games #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C Ranks seventh in Big West with 5.7 rebounds per game
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.
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 during their recently-completed undefeated homestand. UCSB opened with a season-best 50.0% field goal effort 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. The rest of the homestand saw Santa Barbara shoot above 40% three times, while the squad drained 25 three-pointers in the Thunderdome after making just 26 in the first seven games combined. That included a season-best nine-of-18 performance against Arizona and eight more trifectas vs. UC Riverside.
The Thunderdome has also been the site of UCSB's best defensive efforts in 2005-06, as the seven lowest field goal percentages by Gaucho foes have all come in Santa Barbara. On their home court, the Gauchos are allowing opponents to shoot just 37.8% (156-of-413) collectively, compared to a blistering 49.5% (140-of-283) in their five road contests, all losses. UCSB has done a good job of applying pressure defense, amassing more steals than al but three of its 12 opponents this year, including five performances of 10 swipes or more. Santa Barbara racked up double-digit steals just eight times in all of 2004-05.
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 12 opponents and owns a cumulative 188-241 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 against both Saint Mary's and UCLA, but then committed a season-low nine turnovers in the Big West opener vs. UC Riverside. Santa Barbara's 0.86 assist-to-turnover ratio is better than all other Big West squads.
Long Beach State is one of only two Big West schools currently sporting a winning record, but most recently fell 67-64 in non-conference action at UC Davis on Monday, Jan 2. Senior guard Crystal McCutcheon scored 19 points in the losing effort and currently leads the Big West with her 17.1 points per game average, while 49er senior forward Jayme Connors is the league's top rebounder at 10.2 per tilt. On Saturday the Gauchos will return to the scene of arguably their most thrilling victory of last season, as LBSU held a four-point lead with 44 seconds remaining before UCSB rallied to force overtime and prevailed 85-80 In the extra frame. Santa Barbara then took the rematch in the Thunderdome for its 28th straight win over the Beach, and now leads the all-time series 34-27.
UC Irvine - which hosts Cal Poly on Saturday prior to the Gauchos' visit - has struggled in the early season, but enjoyed a 79-72 win at UC Davis on Wednesday. UCI junior guard Angie Ned poured in 16 points in that contest to boost her team-leading average to 11.5 per game. Having won its last eight meetings with the Anteaters, UCSB currently holds a 42-21 advantage in the all-time series.
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 has posted double-digit scoring totals all but once - including two performances of 20-plus - and earned her first career Big West Player of the Week award after tallying 17 points and nine boards in a Dec. 30 win over Pepperdine. The San Jose, Calif., native ranks among the top-three conference players in four major statistical categories, as her 53.2% field goal mark tops the league, her scoring average of 15.4 is second best and her rebounding (7.2) and blocks (1.33) per game marks are both third-highest. 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 followed by a third straight solid all-around effort vs. Pepperdine. Wilson can boast 8.4 rebounds over her last five outings, and is currently tied for fifth in the Big West at 6.3 per game.
Bonds, Karena Bonds
The Gauchos' jack-of-all-trades through nine games has been senior guard Karena Bonds, who owns assists (2.83) and steals (1.92) per game averages that rank fourth and sixth in the Big West, respectively, as well as an 81.0% free-throw mark that is third best. She has been especially careful with the basketball since the start of conference play, with five assists and zero turnovers in each of UCSB's two most recent wins. 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 tallied a season-best 13 points Wednesday vs. Cal State Fullerton.
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 Gilbert, Ariz., native currently ranks second in the Big West with 2.20 made three-pointers per game, while her 39.6% connection rate from beyond the arc is fourth-best. O'Bryan has now moved into seventh place on UCSB's career three-point list with 71 in a little over two years as a Gaucho.
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 1.75 per outing, good for 10th place.
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 hosted regional rivals UCLA and Pepperdine in the Thunderdome after not facing either school for more than a decade.
On the Horizon
Following their roadtrip, the Gauchos will have just two games in a 16-day span, both at home. UCSB hosts future Big West member UC Davis in the Thunderdome on Sunday, Jan. 15 at 2:00 p.m. before resuming conference play on Saturday, Jan. 21 against Cal Poly, also at 2:00 p.m.