Jan. 18, 2006
Game 16 Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006 2:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. Cal Poly The Thunderdome (6,000)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
8-7 overall/3-1 Big West Conference
7-1 home/1-6 away/0-0 neutral
Gauchos Play for Just the Second Time in a 16-Day Span
The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team looks for a seventh consecutive home victory as it resumes Big West Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 21 by hosting Cal Poly (8-6 overall, 3-1 in league play). Tip-off for this showdown between longtime Central Coast rivals is slated for 2:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome. The Gauchos and Mustangs are currently tied for second place in the eight-team Big West, one game behind frontrunner Long Beach State. UCSB - which finds itself sporting a winning overall record for the first time in 2005-06 - has captured 15 of its last 16 home games dating back to last season.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
Saturday's UCSB-CP contest will air live on KIST 1340AM with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and former Gaucho assistant coach Kristen Koch 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.
Short-Handed Gauchos Top UC Davis 70-55
Down to just eight healthy players for a Sunday, Jan. 15 showdown with UC Davis, the Gauchos never trailed en route to a 70-55 non-conference win in the Thunderdome. Despite missing three regular starters due to injury, the Gauchos were able to pull their overall record above .500 for the first time all season at 8-7. The home team held UCD without a field goal for nearly five minutes to open the game, building a 9-2 advantage during that span. After the Aggies ended their early scoring drought, Santa Barbara embarked on a 9-0 run and maintained a double-digit cushion for the remainder of the period. UCSB lead 36-22 heading into the locker rooms, but saw its offense stagnate to open the second half as a 9-3 Aggie spurt capped by Jessica Campbell's three-pointer brought the visitors within 44-35 with 14:54 to play. Junior guard Erin O'Bryan answered with an off-balance lay-in on Santa Barbara's next possession before Whitney Warren scored on an acrobatic move, and UCD would never again mount a serious rally. The Gauchos buried a season-high 10 three-pointers, highlighted by O'Bryan's seven-of-12 performance from beyond the arc.
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 388-171 (.694) and an overall mark of 486-285 (.631). 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 Missed UCD game after being hit by car; should return Sat. #33 Jenna Green So. C Season-low five points vs. Davis but grabbed 11 boards #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Should return after missing Sunday's game with ankle injury #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Missed last two games with ankle injury; questionable vs. CP #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Averaging 8.5 points over last two contests
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Out vs. Cal Poly after undergoing medical procedure #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Coast-to-coast layup Sunday was first basket in a month #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Career-best 23 points, seven three-pointers in UCD win #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Buried trio of first-half three-pointers vs. the Aggies #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F 23 minutes played Sunday were her most on the season #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 72.4 points and 43.0% shooting in their seven home games compared to just 55.4 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.
The Gauchos have gotten defensive in recent weeks, and not as a result of their feelings being hurt. None of Santa Barbara's last seven opponents have cracked the 40% shooting plateau, with UC Davis' 28.3% performance Sunday being the most woeful on the season. During that span, UCSB foes are connecting at a collective 34.7% clip, and an even-more-forgettable 23.5% mark from three-point territory. 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, and then out-blundered UC Davis 19 to 16. After leading the Big West in assist-to-turnover ratio the entire season, UCSB has dipped to second behind Long Beach State at 0.80.
The Best Things in Life Aren't Free
Three 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 55.1% (54-of-98) from the charity stripe over its last quintet of games, not coincidentally posting its five worst percentages on the season. UCSB has slid all the way to seventh in the eight-team Big West with a team mark of 66.0%, just four-tenths of a point ahead of cellar-dweller Pacific.
Following an 8-4 start, Cal Poly has dropped its last two contests, most recently suffering a 73-59 setback to UC Davis at home on Jan. 13. The Mustangs remain the Big West's most offensive team at 74.2 points per game - nearly six better than the next closest squad - and are led by junior Jessica Eggleston's average of 13.3 points per tilt. The Gauchos notched a pair of 24-point victories over CP last season and have now won eight straight against their Central Coast rival to improve to 40-12 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 twice - 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 scoring average of 15.4 is second best while her field goal percentage (51.1%) and rebounding (7.5), blocks (1.13) per game marks are all 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 fourgames have seen Green shoot just 39.1% and commit 18 total turnovers.
Kat in the Hat
In recent weeks Green has formed a formidable low-post tandem alongside fellow sophomore Kat Suderman, who earned just her second career start vs. UC Davis due to the Gauchos' multitude of injuries. The previous game 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 seven outings, exploding for averages of 10.4 points and 8.1 boards as well as a 57.9% shooting mark over that span. She currently owns a 6.6 rebounds per game average that is fifth-best in the Big West.
She Dropped the Bomb on Me
Erin appears to be a popular name for Gaucho three-point specialists, as junior guard Erin O'Bryan's seven trifectas en route to a career-high 23-point effort Sunday were one-shy of the single-game school record set by Erin Alexander during the 1996-97 campaign. O'Bryan's barrage moved her within one three-pointer of seventh place on UCSB's career list, a spot held by another Erin - Buescher - who drained 83 long-bombs as a Gaucho. O'Bryan also vaulted into first place on the Big West's leaderboard with an average of 2.54 "treys" per game, while her 40.2% connection rate from beyond the arc is sixth-best. The Gilbert, Ariz., native has already scored in double-figures seven times this season - including each of the last three games - exceeding the total from her freshman and sophomore seasons combined.
Put Them in Coach, They're Ready To Play
With three regular starters accounting for 33.6% of the team's offensive production sidelined for Sunday's game vs. UC Davis, a number of Gaucho reserves logged major minutes and picked up the slack. Starting for the second time in her career, freshman guard Whitney Warren shattered her previous personal bests with 11 points and eight rebounds, playing a team-high 32 minutes. Meanwhile sophomore guard Ana Onaindia had the second-best game of her truncated UCSB tenure, draining three first-half three-pointers to help Santa Barbara build a lead the Aggies could not recover from. She was one of five Gauchos to establish a new career high on Sunday for minutes played.
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
After playing seven home contests in a nine-game stretch, the Gauchos embark on their longest road swing of the season, spanning five games. UCSB will first travel to Cal State Northridge on Thursday, Jan. 26 for a 7:00 p.m. Big West showdown, and then plays at league foe Pacific two days later.