Gauchos Face Stiff Road Test This Week

Jan. 12, 2011

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• The Schedule
Thursday, January 13, 2011, at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at UC Irvine (11-4, 3-0)
at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center (5,000)
Series record vs. the Anteaters - 54-24
Streak - Won 8
Last time out vs. the Anteaters - W, 57-55 @ UCI (3/3/10)
Game broadcast streaming live online by clicking here and on AM 990 KTMS
Live stats available via Gametracker
Live video available through BigWest.TV

Saturday, January 15, 2011, at 5:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at UC Riverside (7-7, 1-1)
at UC Riverside's Student Rec Center (3,200)
Series record vs. the Highlanders - 18-13
Streak - Lost 2
Last time out vs. the Highlanders - L, 60-54 OT @ UCSB (2/11/10)
Game broadcast streaming live online by clicking here and on AM 990 KTMS
Live stats available via Gametracker
Live video available through BigWest.TV

• On The Radio
All UC Santa Barbara basketball games are broadcast live in Santa Barbara on AM 990 KTMS and will stream live online by clicking here. Josh Suchon is the voice of the Gauchos, performing the play-by-play, while former Los Angeles Lakers and UCSB star Don Ford will handle the color commentary. On select road games, much to the chagrin of the listening audience, yours truly, Matt Hurst, will provide color commentary.

The Opponents
• at UC Irvine, 1/13
The Anteaters are 3-0 and in first place in the Big West, and are ranked at No. 23 in this week's Mid-Major poll. UC Irvine, which has lost its past eight games to UCSB, is led by Mikah Maly-Karros, the stepdaughter of former Major League Baseball star Eric Karros, and she is averaging 19.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, both of which lead the conference. Jade Smith-Williams ranks third in the Big West with her 14.5 points per game. As a team Molly Goodenbour's team is averaging 66.9 points per game.

• at UC Riverside, 1/15
UCR, which won the Big West Tournament last season, is receiving votes in the Mid-Major poll. The Highlanders are led by Alyssa Morris' 11.6 points per game and Tre'Shonti Nottingham's 10.8 points per game.

• Probable Starters - Quick Fact
G 10 Emilie Johnson - Ranked 11th in Big West in scoring with 12.3 points per game
G 24 Angelei Aguirre - Has passed out at least 4 assists six times this season
G 2 Kelsey Adrian - Tied her career-high with 17 points vs. UC Davis on Thursday
F 1 Sweets Underwood - Avg. 9.9 ppg - her lowest mark since second game of season
F 44 Mekia Valentine - Moved into 2nd place all-time in career blocks at UCSB

• Probable Reserves - Quick Fact
G 3 Nicole Nesbit - Led team with 12 points vs. Pacific; tied career-high with 5 steals
G 11 Stefanie Corgel - Did not play in past two games
F 15 Adaeze Okolie - Has played just eight minutes in the last month
G 22 Melissa Zornig - 49 of her 92 shots are from three-point range
F 32 Margaret Johnson - DNP in last 2 games because of injury; if healthy, should start
G 33 Destini Mason - Played career-high 17 minutes on Saturday vs. Pacific

• Shooting The Lights Out
Despite shooting just 33.9% in Saturday's win over Pacific, the Gauchos still lead the Big West in shooting percentage with a team mark of 41.9%. UCSB is shooting 44.8% in its past 11 games - in which the team has won eight of those. With that mark, Santa Barbara has raised its overall shooting percentage from 35.0% - which was last in the Big West at the time - to its current spot.

• Tenacious D
While the Gaucho offense has been en fuego of late, the defense should not be overlooked. UCSB's 34.5% field goal percentage defense is the best in the Big West and 21st-best in the nation. Eight times this season Santa Barbara hasn't allowed opponents to shoot over 35% from the floor, winning six of those games. But, this shouldn't be a shock because UCSB has been among the nation's best in the Lindsay Gottlieb era. In each of the past two seasons, UCSB has led the Big West in opponent's field goal percentage. Last season the squad ranked 31st in the nation with its 36.3% and in 2008-09 UCSB ranked eighth in the country with a 34.6% clip.

• For Comparison's Sake
In UCSB's eight victories, the team has shot 47.6%, including two games where the Gauchos hit on over 55% of their shots while holding opponents to a 30.8% clip. In the team's seven defeats, UCSB is shooting 35.7% vs. the opponent's 38.8%.

• Who Does No. 2 Work For?
With 10 blocked shots combined vs. UC Davis and Pacific last week, senior Mekia Valentine moved into second place all-time at UCSB in career swats. The Greensboro, N.C. native now has blocked 184 shots, trailing only Lindsay Taylor (2000-04) by just 59. With her 4.3 average per game, Valentine should become the Gauchos' all-time shot blocker by season's end.

• She Carries Windex Because She Cleans the Glass
While grabbing 35 rebounds in the Gauchos' two games last week sounds like a lot, it is only the third-best two-game total in Mekia Valentine's career at UCSB. Last season she had two-game totals of 44 and 39 boards. In fact, she finished the season with double-digit rebounds in eight of her nine games.

• Swat Team
As a team, the Gauchos are averaging 5.6 blocked shots per game, easily the best mark among Big West schools and 11th in the nation. Last season UCSB finished sixth in the nation with an average of 6.3 swats per game and set a school record with 202 swats. This year's Gaucho squad has blocked 84 shots.

• Mekia's Block Party
Senior Mekia Valentine is averaging 4.3 blocked shots per game, ranking her fourth in the nation. St. Mary's Louella Tomlinson leads all players with a 5.2 average per game. In just 45 games as a Gaucho, Valentine has moved into second-place all-time in career blocks.

• Double Dippers
There is a chance that two Gauchos could become the first to average a double-double since Erika Kienast had 15.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in 1991-92. Mekia Valentine is averaging 10.0 points and 9.1 boards per contest while Sweets Underwood is averaging 9.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while. The duo rank second and third in the Big West in rebounds.

• Not the Jumpman, but Em-J
Over her past nine games - in which she's hit double figures in eight of them - Emilie Johnson is averaging 14.2 points per game. The junior guard leads the team in scoring with her 12.3 points per game - ranking her 11th in the Big West - and has led the Gauchos in scoring in seven games this season. Last year Johnson became the first sophomore to lead the team in scoring since Jenna Green did so in 2005-06.

• This Little Nicky is Far Better Than Adam Sandler's
Five-foot-five Nicole Nesbit became the first freshman since Emilie Johnson in 2009 to lead the team in scoring when she had 12 vs. Pacific. In her last seven games Nesbit is averaging 9.0 points, 2.6 assists, 2.7 steals and 2.9 rebounds per game. The Northridge, Calif. native is second in the Big West during conference play with her average of 2.33 steals per game.

• Biggest in the Big West
The Gauchos have dominated the conference for more than a decade. Since the 1995-96 season, UCSB is 216-27 (.888) in Big West games.

• Countdown to 1,000
Mekia Valentine has scored 150 points this season, giving her 871 in her career between Wake Forest and UC Santa Barbara. While she will most likely hit 1,000 career points in her collegiate career, she will not be a member of UCSB's 1,000-point club since not all of her buckets came in the blue and gold (she scored 351 points as a Demon Deacon). The next likely member to join the 22-person 1,000-point club is Emilie Johnson, who has scored 821 total points in her Gaucho career.

• Rank and File
While UCSB has lost its two games vs. Associated Press Top-25 opponents, the Gauchos have also tested their mettle vs. several other ranked teams. UCSB has faced UC Davis, which is ranked No. 13 in the Mid-Major poll, Pepperdine (receiving votes) and St. Mary's (receiving votes). UCSB's big tests this week include UC Irvine, ranked No. 23 in the poll, and UC Riverside which is receiving votes. When Cal State Bakersfield was receiving votes in the poll, UCSB defeated the `Runners.

• Tickling the Twine
Two Gauchos are challenging Kira Anthofer's school record shooting percentage of 59.6% in 1985-86. Mekia Valentine is leading the Big West with her 57.7% clip while Sweets Underwood is hitting on 55.4% of her shots. Last season Valentine shot 57.4%, which is the second-highest mark all-time at UCSB.

• RPI Report
In the second release of the Ratings Percentage Index by the NCAA, the Gauchos hold a No. 136 spot, ranking them third in the Big West. Santa Barbara's opponents this week are UC Riverside, which is the highest-ranked Big West team with a 85 RPI, and UC Irvine, which has a 92 RPI, second-best among conference teams.

• Baby, It's Cold Outside
Although the Gauchos have shot 40.0% from downtown in their past four games, UCSB is only shooting 28.1% on the season, which is seventh in the Big West. The lowest three-point percentage by a Gaucho team was in 2005-06 when UCSB hit just 26.2% of its treys. Last season UCSB connected on only 28.3% of its bonus bombs, the sixth-lowest mark in school history.

• Inside the Arc, Inside the Basket
Take away UCSB's shooting percentage from downtown and the Gauchos are hitting 47.6% of their two-point field goals.

• Conference Openers
By defeating Long Beach State on Dec. 30, the Gauchos have won their Big West Conference openers in 15 of the past 16 seasons (with the lone exception in the 2006-07 season). When UC Santa Barbara lost to UC Davis on Thursday, it marked the first time since Jan. 5, 1989 that the Gauchos had lost their conference home opener, ending a string of 20 straight seasons.

• Sweets Tooth
After averaging 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds last season, earning her a spot on the All-Big West Freshman Team, Sweets Underwood is averaging 9.9 points and 8.0 rebounds this season. Only three times this season has the sophomore forward failed to grab at least six rebounds and she's scored in double figures in eight of the team's 15 games.

• We're a Boarding School
Santa Barbara is averaging 41.5 rebounds per game, which leads the Big West, along with the team's +2.1 rebound margin, over a full rebound more than the next closest school.

The Lindsay Gottlieb File
Lindsay Gottlieb is in her third season as the Gauchos' head coach, and she is just the fourth head coach in UCSB women's basketball history. Last season Gottlieb guided the Gauchos to wins in seven of the squad's last eight games, taking a team that finished 9-7 in the Big West to the conference tournament's semifinals, keeping alive a streak of 20 years that UCSB had finished Big West play with a record above .500. In her first season at the helm, Gottlieb led the team to a 22-10 overall mark (15-1 in the Big West) and the Big West regular-season and tournament championships. Named the Big West Coach of the Year, Gottlieb became the first coach in Gaucho history to win at least 20 games and the Coach of the Year award in her first season - and one of only seven coaches nationwide to do so. Gottlieb led the Gauchos to their 14th consecutive postseason appearance and the team won 20 games for the 12th time in the past 14 years. In her first two seasons with the program, Gottlieb has guided the Gauchos to national prominence, leading the conference in field goal percentage defense both years while having her team set a school record in free throw percentage (08-09) and blocked shots in a season (09-10).. No stranger to success, Gottlieb was formerly the associate head coach at Cal, helping the team to a 68-28 (.708) overall mark in her time there. Prior to that, Gottlieb was an assistant at the University of Richmond, where she helped the Spiders to three straight 20-win seasons.

The Gaucho Fund, launched as part of the Dare to Be Great strategic plan, is UCSB Athletics' annual giving program to provide vital funding support for scholarships, academic success and leadership development for Gaucho student-athletes. The Gaucho Fund is the anchor to the Dare to Be Great campaign.

GKids is the official kids club of UCSB Athletics. Members receive a free GKids t-shirt, free admittance to tons of Gaucho games, opportunities to be ball boys and girls at games, a special birthday greeting from Olie (the GKids mascot) and much, much more! For more information on GKids, or to become a member, please click here.