January 10, 2007

UCSB Hosts Utah Valley State, Travels to UC Davis In Non-Conference Action This Week

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Jan. 10, 2007

The Schedule
Game No. 16
Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Utah Valley State Wolverines
The Thunderdome (6,000)

Game No. 17
Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at UC Davis Aggies
UCD Pavilion (7,580)

This Week
The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball takes a week off from Big West play with a pair of non-conference match-ups, starting with Utah Valley State Thursday night in the Thunderdome concluding a season-long three-game homestand. The Gauchos will then head north to take on future league foe UC Davis Saturday in the first of two meetings this season. Both games are scheduled to tip-off at 7:00 p.m. UCSB and UVSU have never met, while the Gauchos own a 5-2 all-time record against the Aggies.

The Gaucho Record
After posting a 6-2 record in the month of January a year ago, UCSB got off to great start in the year's first month this season with home wins over Long Beach State and UC Irvine last week. Santa Barbara enters Thursday's match-up with Utah Valley State with an overall record of 7-8 and a 3-1 conference mark on the heels of a season-high three-game winning streak. After dropping their conference opener at UC Riverside Dec. 28, the Gauchos have won three straight to claim a share of the top spot in the Big West standings. UCSB edged Cal State Fullerton 73-71 Dec. 30 before posting a 71-60 win over defending co-champion Long Beach State last Thursday and an 86-67 victory over UC Irvine Saturday. The Gauchos look to pull their record over the .500 mark for the first time since defeating Portland State in the season-opener with wins over the Wolverines and Aggies this week.

UCSB on the Air & Web
Both contests against UVSU and UCD, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2006-07, will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Steve Wendt is back for his third season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos alongside former Los Angeles Laker and UCSB star Don Ford, who will provide most of the color commentary during home games. Broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". Fans can also catch all games live via the internet by going to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass".

Gauchos Roll in Win Over UC Irvine
With its offense firing on all cylinders, UCSB shot a season-high 54.4% from the field and soundly defeated visiting UC Irvine 86-67 Saturday afternoon in the Thunderdome. For the first time this season, a total of five players scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard LaShay Fears' 18 points and six assists. Junior guard Jessica Wilson had a brilliant all-around game, finishing with 15 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals, and three blocks, while Chisa Ononiwu tallied a season-high 16 points, and Whitney Warren was a perfect 6-for-6 and also added 15. Junior center Jenna Green chipped in with 13 points and a game-high four blocked shots. As a team, Santa Barbara hit 31-of-57 shots from the field and knocked down a season-best 70% (7-for-10) of its three-point attempts. UCSB shot 55.2% overall in the first half of play and made 15-of-28 shots in the second, 54.4%. The Gauchos recorded 22 assists on their 31 made baskets, also a season-high. Santa Barbara opened the game on a 28-9 run to build an insurmountable 19-point lead in the opening period and went on to win by the same margin. The 19-point margin of victory was the Gauchos' largest this season.

Offense Keys Three-Game Win Streak
It is no coincidence that the Gauchos' longest winning streak of the season has come at a time when the offense has been in full swing. In UCSB's last three games -- wins over Fullerton, Long Beach, and Irvine -- the offense has put up an average of over 76 points per game, up considerably from the team's season average of just under 65 per contest. With that said, the team has scored 70 points or more in three-straight to improve to 5-1 when accomplishing that feat (UCSB is 2-0 when scoring 80 or more). The 86 points scored in the win over the Anteaters was just two shy of the Gauchos' high mark this season. Additionally, Santa Barbara has shot better than 40 % from the field in each of the last three after shooting a season low 28% at UC Riverside two weeks ago. After Saturday's season-high 54.4% performace from the floor, the Gauchos own a 6-3 mark when shooting better than 40% this season.

Mr. 500
Mark French returned to his alma mater at the start of the 1987-88 season and women's basketball at UC Santa Barbara has never been the same. Now in his 20th season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 403-186 (.684) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 501-300 (.625). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 15 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 two 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 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. 2006-07 has been a year a milestones thus far, as French collected his 400th win at UCSB when the Gauchos defeated Pepperdine 78-67 Dec. 18. Less than three weeks later, he added another notch on his belt, winnnig his 500th career game as a head coach with UCSB's victory over Long Beach State.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - LaShay Fears - Led Gauchos in scoring for the first time this season in win over UC Irvine (18).
G - Jessica Wilson - Tallied a career-best 12 assists against the Anteaters.
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Made 6-of-7 shots for season-high 16 points against UCI.
F - Whitney Warren - Second on the squad shooting 44% in 2006-07.
C - Jenna Green - Leads team averaging 16.5 points per game.

Probable Reserves - Notes
F - Jordan Franey - Scored 16 points and dished out a career-best four assists vs. LBSU.
G - Meagan Williams - Averaged 3.5 rebounds in just 7.5 minutes of action against 49ers and 'Eaters.
G/F - Ariana Gnekow - Tallied five rebounds, two assists, and one steal Saturday.
F - Ashley Hall - Appeared in eight games this season, averaging under two minutes per contest.
C - Jessica Goble - Made her only shot in four minutes against Long Beach State.

Injury Report - Notes
G - Sha' Rae Gibbons - Out at least two weeks with right knee injury.

Board Games
Another key factor in the Gauchos current three-game winning streak has been their ability to control the glass. Santa Barbara has out-rebounded its opponent in each of its last three victories and has done so by an average margin of over 11 boards per game. After posting a slim 45-41 advantage in last Thursday's win over the 49ers, UCSB absolutely dominated the backboards against the Anteaters, holding a 46-28 advantage. In fact the eight team boards UCI tallied led the the squad. In addition, the Gauchos hauled in a season-high 19 offensive rebounds against Irvine, marking the third time in the last four games they have net a new season mark in that category. UCSB is now 6-1 in games when out-rebounding opponents this season, with the only loss coming against Oregon -- when the Gauchos held a narrow 35-33 advantage.

Defense Lends A Hand
UCSB's defense has tightened up in the last few games, as well. The Gauchos held both LBSU and UCI under 40% shooting -- 34.3% and 38.3%, respectively -- marking the third consecutive game in which the defense has accomplished that feat. Santa Barbara is a perfect 6-0 when holding opponents to less than 40% shooting this season.

Scouting the Wolverines
• UCSB concludes its three-game homestand with Utah Valley State on Thursday, marking the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

• UVSU, a Division I independent, comes to Santa Barbara with an 11-6 overall record after falling at UC Irvine 89-75 Tuesday night -- a fourth consecutive loss. Since winning nine of their first 10 games to start 2006-07, the Wolverines have lost six of seven. They have outscored opponents by an average of 75.7 to 71.4 and averaged an identical 39.1 rebounds per game to the opposition. Utah Valley State shoots 44% from the field, while their opponents have shot 40.5%. Sophomore center Robyn Fairbanks is one of the nation's top scorers at 25.3 points per game and was named the D-I Independent Player of the Week on January 2nd after averaging 33.5 points and 7.8 rebounds during a four-game stretch from December 18-31. UVSU is just 2-3 on the road this season.

Scouting the Aggies
• Following Thursday's showdown with the Wolverines, the Gauchos will play at UC Davis Saturday night. UCSB holds a 5-2 advantage over UCD all-time and took one of two from the Aggies a year ago. The Gauchos recorded a 70-55 victory led by Erin O'Bryan's 23 points Jan. 15 in the Thunderdome, before dropping a 64-56 decision in Davis Feb. 11. UC Davis will officially join the Big West next season.

• The Aggies own a 6-9 overall record and will take on Cal Poly Thursday night. UCD has lost two of three and is coming off of a 78-61 defeat to South Dakota State Jan. 5. Davis averages 60.9 points per game, while its opponents put up 61.9 per contest. The Aggies have been out-rebounded by a 37.7 to 30.4 margin and shoot 41.3% from the field to their opposition's mark of 40.4%. Senior guard Heather Bates leads three players who average double figures at 11.6 points per game with fellow backcourt mates Haylee Donaghe and Laura Thomas not far behind at 11.1 and 10.3, respectively. Bates is also the Aggies leading rebounder at 6.9 per game and shoots a very respectable 43.4% from the floor.

Green Machine
Junior center Jenna Green leads the Gauchos averaging 16.5 points and 7.7 rebounds and has recorded a team-high 19 blocked shots in 2006-07. The San Jose, Calif. native has led the team in scoring in five of the last six games and has done so a total of 10 times this year. Green, who also leads the squad shooting 51.1% from the floor, is the only player on the roster who has scored in double-figures in all 15 games this season. As far as Big West statistics go, Green ranks second in the conference in field goal percentage and scoring, third in blocks, and sixth in rebounding. The center had one of the best performances of her career Dec. 30 at Cal State Fullerton, scoring a season-high 23 points -- 21 in the second half -- to lead the Gauchos back from a 16-point deficit. Green scored a game-high 20 points in last Thursday's win over Long Beach State, marking the fifth time she has scored 20 or more in 2006-07. She also led the Gauchos with nine rebounds. Despite finishing with a season-low 13 points in Saturday's victory against UC Irvine, Green hauled in a game-high seven rebounds and tied a career-high with four blocked shots. The 6-4 junior has recorded three double-doubles this season.

Wilson Named Big West Player of the Week
After a pair of stellar performances in wins over LBSU and UCI, junior guard Jessica Wilson earned her second-career Big West Conference Player of the Week award for the week ending Jan. 7 on Monday. The Sacramento, Calif. native scored 13 points on 3-for-9 shooting -- including a 3-for-5 performance from beyond the three-point arc -- to go along with eight rebounds, six assists, and a blocked shot in UCSB's 71-60 home win over the 49ers last Thursday. Wilson was even better in Saturday's 86-67 victory against the Anteaters, making six of 12 shots for 15 points. She also recorded six rebounds, 12 assists, three blocks and four steals.The 12 assists was a career-high, eclipsing her previous best of seven that came in the Gauchos' 87-62 loss at UCLA earlier this season, and was also the conference's top single-game performance of the year. Wilson is second on the squad in scoring at 13.3 ppg and rebounding at 5.7 rpg and leads the team averaging 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals per contest. The team's best all-around athlete, she has also made 13-of-36 three-point shots (36.1%), which leads the squad.

Rounding Into Form
With a total of six games under her belt, junior transfer Chisa Ononiwu has settled into her role within the offense and found her shooting touch at the same time. After shooting a combined 6-for-27 (22%) in her first three games, the native of Houston, Tex. has made 13-of-22 shots in the last three, 59% -- all Gaucho wins. Ononiwu finished 5-of-10 from the floor and scored 10 points to go with seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals in UCSB's win over the 49ers last week. She then made a season-high six field goals on 6-for-7 shooting against the Anteaters and tallied 16 points, her highest total in a Gaucho uniform. She knocked down three of her four three-point attempts and grabbed five rebounds in the win. Ononiwu has scored in double figures in four of her six games since becoming eligible and is averaging 9.0 ppg.

The Warren Court
After starting the first 14 games she played in this season, sophomore guard Whitney Warren came in off the bench Saturday against Irvine and provided an immediate lift. She finished with 15 points on a perfect 6-for-6 performance from the floor and grabbed six rebounds. The 15 points was the second-highest total of her career and three shy of her personal best set Nov. 24 against Louisville. Warren has scored in double figures in three of the last four games and a total of four times this season. On the year she is averaging 7.9 points per game, making 44% of her attempts from the field, which is second on the team. Warren is third on the squad in rebounds, at 5.2 per contest and fifth in minutes played at 29.7.

Sharp Shooter
Freshman Forward Jordan Franey has started 12 games this season and is averaging 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 26.6 minutes per game. The San Diego native has also proven to be one of UCSB's biggest three-point shooting threats, leading the team with 23 treys and 66 attempts. Franey had a break-out performance in the Gauchos' 62-57 win over Weber State Dec. 7, when she led all scorers and finished with a career-best 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-6 from three-point territory. She also hauled in a career-best 12 rebounds to record her first-career double-double as a Gaucho. Coming off the bench in three of the last four, Franey made a strong case to earn her starting spot back against Long Beach State, making five of her seven shots from the field, including 2-of-4 from three-point territory, for 16 points. That total was her second-highest as a Gaucho and marked the seventh time she scored in double figures this season. The freshman also made 4-of-5 free-throw attempts and dished out a career-best four assists. With that performance, she was back in the starting lineup against UC Irvine and finished with eight points.

UCSB Lands Three Prized Recruits
On Wednesday, November 8, UCSB announced the signing of three high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during this year's early signing period. Ashlee Brown, a 6'0" forward from Good Year, Ariz., a 5'11" guard Courtney Collishaw of Visalia, Calif., and Margaret Johnson, a 5'11" forward from Lake Oswego, Ore. will join the Gauchos next season as true freshmen. Brown was named to the 2005-06 Arizona Tribune First Team and garnered First Team All-Fiesta Region accolades after averaging 21 points, 16 rebounds, five steals, four assists, and three blocked shots per game as a junior at Chandler High School. Collishaw signs with UCSB after earning Cal-Hi Sports All-State Junior Second Team honors at Redwood High School. She was named to the CIF Central Section First Team after scoring 22.6 points per game a year ago. Johnson enters her final season at Lake Oswego High School having guided the team to a second place league finish in 2006 at 10-4 and an 18-8 overall record. In 2007-08 Santa Barbara will also gain the services of 5'10" guard Lauren Pedersen, a junior transfer from UCLA. A native of Brea, Calif., she played two seasons with the Bruins, averaging 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in 54 career games while making 11 starts during that span. Pedersen will have two years of eligibility at UCSB starting next season.

Gauchos Look To Start Streaking
2005-06 was a very disappointing year by UCSB standards. Finishing just 16-14 last season and losing in the WNIT First Round, Coach French and the Gauchos had a number of streaks broken that they will be looking to reestablish this year. UCSB saw its streak of nine consecutive Big West Tournament titles come to a crashing halt after a narrow loss to UC Riverside in the title game. That being said, Santa Barbara did not receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and its string of nine-straight trips to the Big Dance was also severed. With a total of 16 victories, UCSB saw its span of 10 seasons with at least 20 wins broken, as well. Finally, although the Gauchos did win the Big West regular season title, they shared the honor with Long Beach State, which snapped their streak of 10-straight outright conference championships--a run that was the longest in the nation. Needless to say, UCSB will aim to start a new set of streaks in 2006-07.

O'Bryan, Thomas Leave UCSB
On October 17, head coach Mark French announced that two key players would not be with the Gauchos in 2006-07. Guard Erin O'Bryan and forward Shantel Thomas both left the program citing personal reasons. O'Bryan, who appeared in 27 games for UCSB last season, averaging 6.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, will not be back for her senior season. Thomas, on the other hand, is expected to return at some point, provided she maintains her eligibility. The Sacramento, Calif. native appeared in 25 games as a true freshman in 2005-06, averaging 2.5 ppg and 2.6 rpg in 11.2 minutes per contest.

Another Blow...
Less than a month later, the coaching staff was dealt more bad news when the decision was made that Kat Suderman will redshirt in 2006-07. The San Luis Obispo, Calif. native will be inactive this season as she rehabilitates from a knee surgery she had last spring. Suderman was one of only two players to appear in all 30 games last season, starting eight games for UCSB. She posted career-highs averaging 6.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game. Over the past two seasons, Suderman has appeared in a combined 56 games, more than any other Gaucho over that span.

Looking Ahead
Following this week's match-ups with Utah Valley State and UC Davis, UCSB will resume Big West play Saturday, January, 20 at Cal Poly. The Gauchos will take on their Central Coast rivals at 4:00 p.m. in their only game of the week.

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