Gauchos Host UC Davis in Final Non-Conference Home Game of 2005-06
Jan. 12, 2006
Game 15 Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006 2:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Davis The Thunderdome (6,000)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
7-7 overall/3-1 Big West Conference
6-1 home/1-6 away/0-0 neutral
Gauchos Have Won Five Straight and 14 of Last 15 in the Thunderdome
Following a busy stretch of four games in eight days, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team will play just twice in a two-week span beginning with a Sunday, Jan. 15 showdown with UC Davis in the Thunderdome. Tip-off for the Gauchos' final non-conference home game of 2005-06 is slated for 2:00 p.m. UCSB enters this clash with the Aggies (6-8 overall entering this week) having won their last five home games and 14 of its last 15 dating back to last season, while another victory in the Thunderdome would push Santa Barbara's overall record above .500 for the first time in 2005-06.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
Sunday's UCSB-UCD contest will air live on KTMS 990AM with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and "$1.98" Don Ford providing color commentary. Their broadcast begins 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". All of Santa Barbara's games in 2005-06 can also be heard live via the internet by pointing your browser to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass", while the school's official site will also tentatively offer live video webcasts of home contests throughout the remainder of the regular season. Click on the link below just prior to tip-off to access the live video:
UCSB Sees Streaks End at Long Beach State Before Rebounding vs. UC Irvine
Several impressive streaks - as well as one of futility - came to an end last week as the Gauchos split a pair of Big West Conference road contests. On Saturday, Jan. 7, Long Beach State ended 12 years of frustration against UCSB as it pulled out a hard-fought 58-52 victory in the Walter Pyramid. The 49ers opened their biggest cushion of the game at 47-40 with 6:48 remaining, but Santa Barbara responded with seven unanswered points capped by freshman Shantel Thomas' put-back of an air ball at the 3:11 mark. Her basket put the visitors ahead 48-47, and following that possession the two longtime conference rivals traded one-point leads five times. When Jenna Green fed Kat Suderman for a layup with 2:12 to play the Gauchos held a 52-51 advantage, but LBSU senior guard Crystal McCutcheon answered right back for what would eventually be the game-winning score. The home team sunk five-of-six free throws down the stretch to halt its 24-game losing skid vs. UCSB, which also fell for the first time in its last 46 contests against current members of the eight-team Big West. Still searching for their first road win of 2005-06, the Gauchos earned their elusive victory two nights later at UC Irvine, 71-60. Holding a slim 23-18 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half, Santa Barbara pulled away thanks to a 13-2 run that included a pair of driving layups by sophomore guard Jessica Wilson and Erin O'Bryan's three-pointer. The Anteaters did pull as close as nine points in the waning minutes, but UCSB held on despite a season-high 27 turnovers.
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 154-10 (.939) league record since 1995-96.
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 387-171 (.694) and an overall mark of 485-285 (.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 Averaged just 6.0 points, 4.0 rebounds on recent road trip #33 Jenna Green So. C Notched second career double-double at LBSU #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Ranks seventh in Big West at 6.7 rebounds per game #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Missed UCI game with ankle injury; should return Sunday #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Just four total assists over her last five contests
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Averaging 3.8 points, 3.5 boards per game in league play #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Averaging 5.0 minutes per game in reserve duty #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G 75 career three-pointers rank seventh in UCSB history #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Saw limited action at both Long Beach State, UCI #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Hauled down four rebounds in loss at LBSU #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C Career-highs of 17 points, 13 boards in win over Irvine
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
There's no questioning that the Gauchos have played their best basketball of 2005-06 within the friendly confines of the Thunderdome. UCSB is averaging 72.7 points and 42.5% shooting in their seven home games compared to just 55.0 points and a 34.1% field goal mark during an equal number of road contests. Santa Barbara's highest point total since the 2002-03 campaign - 90 en route to a Dec. 17 upset of No. 24 UCLA - as well as five of its six most efficient shooting efforts have all come in the Thunderdome.
On their recently-completed Big West road trip, the Gauchos finally got defensive away from home. After allowing each of their first five road foes this season to shoot better than 40%, Long Beach State and UC Irvine connected a collective 33.9% clip (40-of-118). UCSB was also out-rebounded in its quintet of away games during 2005, but evidently turned over a new leaf in the New Year by winning the battle of the boards by double-digit margins at both LBSU and UCI. The Gauchos are playing a more aggressive brand of defense this year, already posting double-digit steals seven times after doing so on just eight occasions in all of 2004-05.
In a season of ups and downs, one constant through the first 12 games of 2005-06 was UCSB committing fewer turnovers than its opponent. However, that streak - which both excited and perplexed the Gaucho coaching staff - came to an end at Long Beach State where Santa Barbara coughed the ball up 15 times compared to 14 miscues by the home team. Instead of returning to form vs. UC Irvine, the Gauchos posted a whopping 27 turnovers, six more than in any previous contest this year. Despite that forgettable performance, UCSB's 0.80 assist-to-turnover ratio is better than all other Big West squads.
The Best Things in Life Aren't Free
Two weeks ago the Gauchos were proudly sitting atop the Big West free-throw percentage rankings at 72.0%, which included a stellar 24-of-29 performance from the charity stripe that was instrumental in their upset of UCLA. However something has gone awry since the beginning of 2006 and conference play. Santa Barbara is connecting at a paltry 54.5% (48-of-88) from the charity stripe in its four league games, not coincidentally posting its four worst percentages on the season. UCSB has slid all the way to seventh in the eigh-team Big West with a team mark of 66.2%, just one-tenth of a point ahead of cellar-dweller Pacific.
The Gauchos might be able to take free-throw shooting lessons from UC Davis, which owns a scintillating 82.0% mark from the charity stripe that is better than all NCAA Division I teams. The Aggies - who are in their third year of a four-year reclassification to D-I status and will officially join the Big West in 2007-08 - play at Cal Poly on Friday night before visiting the Thunderdome. UCD features a balanced attack with five players scoring in double-figures, led by junior Jessica Campbell's 12.1 points per game. She tallied 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds on Jan. 17, 2005 in the Thunderdome as Davis dropped an 85-67 decision to the Gauchos. It was the first meeting between the two schools since 1981, while the win improved Santa Barbara's record in the all-time series to 4-1.
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 51.2% field goal mark is tied for tops in the league, her scoring average of 15.4 is second best and her rebounding (7.3) and blocks (1.14) per game marks are both third-highest. Green is the only Gaucho currently making over half her shots, but has dipped below the 53.3% clip she posted en route to earning Big West All-Freshman honors in 2003-04. The past three games have seen Green shoot just 38.1% and commit 14 total turnovers.
Kat in the Hat
In recent weeks Green has formed a formidable low-post tandem alongside fellow sophomore Kat Suderman, who is coming off the finest perfomance of her young Gaucho career. At UCI, the San Luis Obispo, Calif., native amassed her second career double-double in the form of a personal best 17 points and 13 boards, a rebounding total that is also highest by any Gaucho thus far in 2005-06. After not scoring in double-figures through the first eight games of the season, Suderman done so four times in her last six outings, exploding for averages of 10.8 points and 8.0 boards as well as a 61.7% shooting mark over that span. She currently owns a 6.4 rebounds per game average that is tied for fifth in the Big West.
While Suderman enjoyed her break-out game vs. the Anteaters, sophomore guard Jessica Wilson had hers when the Gauchos most desperately needed a quality win. None of Wilson's personal best 21 points vs. UCLA 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 7.7 rebounds over her last seven outings, and is currently seventh in the Big West at 6.2 per game.
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 rank second in the Big West with 2.17 made three-pointers per game, while her 37.1% connection rate from beyond the arc is sixth-best. O'Bryan has now moved into seventh place on UCSB's career three-point list with 75 in a little over two years as a Gaucho. She has already scored in double-figures six times this season, exceeding her total from her freshman and sophomore seasons combined.
Bonds, Karena Bonds
Santa Barbara's whopping 27 turnovers at UCI were at least partly attributable to the absence of senior guard Karena Bonds, the team's top ball-handler who missed Monday's game after suffering a mild ankle injury in practice the previous day. She is the only Gaucho to sport a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (36 vs. 25 - 1.44) and has been a jack-of-all trades, ranking among the Big West's top-10 in three statistical categories. The Morro Bay, Calif., native owns steals (1.92) and assists (2.77) per game averages that rank fifth and ninth in the Big West, respectively, as well as an 81.0% free-throw mark that is fourth-best. Bonds played a spirited game at Weber State, recording 12 points and a personal best 10 rebounds for her first career double-double, most coming after UCSB was down to just seven healthy players.
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 NCAA Championship. Emily Niemann, a 6-1 forward, scored 19 points in the national title 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 began 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
The Gauchos remain home as they resume Big West play on Saturday, Jan. 21, hosting Central Coast rival Cal Poly in the Thunderdome at 2:00 p.m. UCSB then embarks on a season-long five-game road swing which begins on Thursday, Jan. 26 at Cal State Northridge.