UCSB Hosts UC Riverside In Big West Showdown Thursday

UCSB Hosts UC Riverside In Big West Showdown Thursday

Jan. 30, 2008

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The Schedule
Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (12-6, 7-0) vs. UC Riverside Highlanders (7-10, 5-1)
The Thunderdome (6,000)

Coming Attractions
After posting three consecutive wins on the road, including victories at UC Davis and Pacific during a Northern California swing last week, UC Santa Barbara returns to the Thunderdome for the for the first time since Jan. 12 for its toughest test in Big West play thus far. The first place Gauchos will look to remain perfect in league when they entertain defending conference champion UC Riverside -- a team that has won the last five meetings. The Highlanders enter Thursday's showdown a game and a half behind the Gauchos in the standings after dropping their first league contest at the hands of upstart Cal State Fullerton last week. With a victory over Riverside, Santa Barbara can take a two-game lead in the chase for the Big West crown, as well as knock off the team that has denied its bid to reach the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. After battling the Highlanders, the Gauchos will have a week off before taking on Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine Feb. 7-9.

For the Record
With the wins over the Aggies and Tigers, UCSB improved to 7-0 in conference play, winning its first seven league games for the first time since the 2001-02 season. That team went on to finish a flawless 16-0 in the Big West and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost a 76-60 decision to Texas. Beginning with a 74-66 victory over Ole Miss on Dec. 29, Santa Barbara has now won its last eight games overall and enters the fifth week of conference play with an overall record of 12-6. Last year's squad did not win its 12th game until Feb. 3, when the Gauchos defeated UC Davis 90-64 in the Thunderdome. One of only two teams in the Big West to own a winning record so far this season, UCSB is 4-2 at home in 2007-08.

Gauchos on the Air & Web
The clash with UC Riverside, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2007-08, will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Steve Wendt is in his fourth season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos and he will have the call live as the Gauchos take on the Highlanders. UCSB's student radio station will also cover Thursday's match-up and that broadcast can be heard live on KCSB 91.9 FM or online at www.kcsb.org. If radio isn't your thing, you can watch all games live via the internet by going to www.bigwest.tv and purchasing the UCSB season package. For the third straight year the Big West Conference and CSTV are partnering to bring exclusive Big West Gaucho events to fans online. BigWest.TV offers on-demand access to LIVE coverage of Big West contests as well as press conferences, features, and Big West Championships. The Gaucho faithful can also follow all of the action live online with CSTV's GameTracker at www.UCSBgauchos.com.

Gibbons' Career-High Carries UCSB Past Pacific
Sha'Rae Gibbons scored 19 of her career-high 23 points in the second half to lead the Gauchos to a 71-58 victory over Pacific Saturday afternoon at the Spanos Center. Kat Suderman added 16 points and Jordan Franey chipped in with 12 as UCSB continued to find success against Big West competition. Gibbons was an impressive 8-of-12 from floor to lead all scorers and her 23 points eclipsed a previous high of 20 that came in the Gauchos' 95-82 victory at Santa Clara Nov. 23. UCSB raced out to an 11-3 lead after scoring on five of its first seven possessions and closed the half on an 8-3 run to take a 36-26 advantage into the locker room at the break. Gibbons hit back-to-back baseline jumpers to open the second half and Santa Barbara scored the first seven points of the period to take their biggest lead at 43-26 with 13:58 remaining. The Tigers then used a 16-7 run to climb within 50-42, but Gibbons scored nine points down the stretch -- with four coming at the charity stripe -- and UCSB pulled away for the final 71-58 margin.

Eight Is Great
UCSB has been playing excellent basketball during its current unbeaten streak, winning the last eight by an average of 13.5 points per game. The Gauchos are averaging just under 72 points per night during the streak, which is nearly four points higher than their season average of 68.3. Defensively, Santa Barbara has limited the opposition to just 58.4 points per game, which is nearly seven points lower than the season mark of 65.1. As a team, the Gauchos are shooting a very impressive 44.7% in the last eight, while holding the opposition to just 39.3% from the field.

About The Coach
Mark French returned to his alma mater at the start of 1987-88 season and women's basketball at UC Santa Barbara has never been the same. In his 21st season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 427-198 (.683) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 525-312 (.627). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 16 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 three 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 was 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 and holds conference records for league wins and consecutive seasons at one school. French reached two major coaching milestones last season, winning his 400th victory at UCSB with a 78-67 Santa Barbara win over Pepperdine Dec.18 and then notched his 500th career victory overall when the Gauchos defeated Long Beach State Jan. 4.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Went 8-for-12 for a career-high 23 points at Pacific Saturday.
G - Lauren Pedersen - Finished with a career-best nine assists in win over Tigers.
G - Jessica Wilson - Leads the team averaging 11.7 points and 6.0 rebounds this season.
F - Whitney Warren - Averaging 6.5 rebounds over the last four games.
F - Kat Suderman - Has scored in double figures in 10 of UCSB's last 12.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Played a total of 10 minutes last week after returning from a neck injury.
G - Meagan Williams - Leads UCSB shooting 52.2% overall after shooting 6-for-10 in last two.
G - Ariana Gnekow - Tallied 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal in win at UC Davis.
F - Ashlee Brown - Shooting 50% (37-74) in 18 games in 2007-08.
F - Jordan Franey - Scored a season-best 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting at UOP.
F - Margaret Johnson - Took one shot in a total of four minutes vs. Aggies and Tigers.
C - Jessie Goble - Appeared in just two of the last five games.

Doing It With Defense
As we alluded to on page one, the Gauchos have been getting after it defensively and their play on that end of the floor is a big reason why UCSB enters Thursday's contest riding its longest winning streak in almost three years. While the Gauchos have limited the competition to nearly seven points under their opponents' season average during the current unbeaten streak, the defense has been even better recently. After holding just one foe to 60 points or less entering the Jan. 12 match-up with Cal State Fullerton, Santa Barbara has now accomplished that feat in the last four games, holding the opposition to an average of 56.8. UCSB is now a perfect 5-0 when the opponent scores less than 60 this season. Whats more, the Gauchos have held the last four to a combined 35.8% from the field (76-212).

Quick Hits
UCSB improved to an impressive 10-0 when leading at halftime this season after Saturday's win at Pacific...The Gauchos are 2-6 when trailing at intermission...Santa Barbara has been outstanding in overtime in 2007-08, winning all three of its games after Thursday's tilt with UC Davis went into OT...The Gauchos, who have gone to overtime twice in the last four games, have outscored the opposition 39-23 in extra sessions this season...UCSB has won six of its last seven overtime contests dating back to 2002-03... Santa Barbara has shot better than 40% from the field in seven of its eight victories during the current winning streak...The Gauchos controlled the glass against UC Davis (45-27) and Pacific (38-25) improving to 9-1 when outrebounding the opponent this season.

Scouting the Highlanders
• UCSB will square off with UC Riverside Thursday in a game the Santa Barbara faithful have been waiting for since the Gauchos lost to the Highlanders in last year's Big West Tournament Championship. UCSB leads the all-time series 14-11, but has had trouble with UCR recently, losing the previous five meetings. In addition to the 70-67 win in the conference tourney last March, the Highlanders defeated the Gauchos 70-57 on Dec. 28 in Riverside and claimed a 62-54 victory Feb. 24 in the Thunderdome. UCR also knocked off UCSB in the Big West Tournament title game in 2006, ending the Gauchos' nine-year run. Santa Barbara has not defeated Riverside since posting a 73-48 victory Jan. 2, 2006 at home.

• Reigning Big West Coach of the Year John Margaritis is in his fourth year at the helm and welcomes back four starters from least year's squad that finished with an overall record of 21-11 and won the program's first Big West regular season title with a mark of 12-2. The Highlander's crown brought UCSB's streak of 11 consecutive regular season championships to an end.

• UC Riverside enters Thursday's match-up with an overall record of 7-10 and a 5-1 conference mark after splitting home contests with Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine last week. The Highlanders rank seventh in the Big West averaging 62.4 points per game, while giving up 63.2, a figure that leads the league. Junior guard Seyram Gbewonyo has started every game this season and leads the team averaging 13.5 points to go with 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Junior forward Roney Friend has also started all 17 games and is averaging 9.2 points, while leading the squad hauling in 9.2 boards. She is shooting a very impressive 46% from the floor. Like the Gauchos, UCR is without its leading scorer and rebounder from a year ago as 2006-07 Big West Player of the Year Kemie Nkele is redshirting the season with a knee injury.

Rock Steady
Jessica Wilson turned in her best performance of the year at UC Davis last Thursday, finishing with season-highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds in a career-high 37 minutes. Playing in front of a number of family and friends from her hometown of Sacramento, the senior guard was 7-of-12 from the field, including 2-of-5 from the three-point arc, and 4-of-4 at the free-throw line to lead UCSB to the overtime victory. Wilson scored nine of UCSB's 14 points in overtime and the 20 points eclipsed her previous high of 18 that came in Santa Barbara's 95-82 win at Santa Clara Nov. 29. The performance marked her third double-double this season and the 10th of her career. Wilson had a solid showing against Pacific as well, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three steals. For the season, the Sacramento, Calif. native leads the team averaging 11.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and is third dishing out 2.5 assists. She has been very impressive from the field in 2007-08, shooting 46.7%, which ranks third on the team. Wilson is averaging 13.7 points and 7.0 rebounds in Big West play. UCSB is 8-3 when she reaches double figures this season.

Kat Tales
After finishing with just five points and three rebounds in 34 minutes against UC Davis, Kat Suderman bounced back with an excellent outing against Pacific two days later to lead UCSB to its seventh straight win in Big West play and eighth overall. The native of San Luis Obispo, Calif. scored 16 points on 8-for-15 shooting, while also tallying a game-high eight rebounds and a career-high three steals. Suderman has now scored in double figures in 10 of the last 12 games, leading UCSB to a record of 9-3 over that span. On the season, she is second on the squad averaging 10.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and ranks fourth in terms of field goal percentage, shooting 46.4% from the floor. The 6-foot-4 forward is averaging 13.3 points over the last 12 and leads the Gauchos averaging 14.0 points in Big West games. Suderman is having a breakout season, averaging career highs in points, rebounds, blocked shots, field goal percentage, and minutes played.

Rae of Light
Jessica Wilson wasn't the only Gaucho to put on a show for a hometown crowd last week, as Sha'Rae Gibbons finished with a career-high 23 points to lead Santa Barbara to the 71-58 win at Pacific on Saturday. The Sacramento, Calif. native was 8-of-12 from floor to lead all scorers and both the eight field goals made and 12 attempted were new career marks, as well. Gibbons scored 19 of her points in the second half, including several big buckets down the stretch to thwart the Tiger's attempt at a comeback. She was just 2-of-7 from the floor for seven points in the Gauchos' overtime win at UC Davis, but did dish out a game-high five assists in a career-high 42 minutes. The 5-foot-7 guard is averaging career-highs of 9.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists this season. Gibbons leads the team shooting 85.5% from the free-throw line.

Franey Heats Up
Jordan Franey is averaging just 13.5 minutes per game this season, but she made a strong case to see play more playing time with two solid performances on the road last week. The San Diego native scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting to go with two assists, and a block in 22 minutes in the win over the Aggies. On Saturday, she made her first four shots and finished 5-9 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from the three-point line for a season-high 12 points in just 18 minutes to help UCSB defeat Pacific. Her previous high mark for the season was an 11-point effort at Santa Clara Nov. 29.

Wilson Watch
Senior guard Jessica Wilson enters Thursday's clash with UC Riverside just 16 points shy of becoming the 22nd player in program history to score 1,000 points for her career. The Sacramento, Calif native began the season with 774 career points -- 402 of which came last year -- and has scored a total of 210 through 18 games in 2007-08. Wilson is looking to join teammate Jenna Green as a member of the elite 1,000 point club and if she does, they will become the first duo to reach the plateau together since Kristen Mann and Mia Fisher did so in 2003-04 and 2004-05. Green scored her 1,000-career point last season against Cal Poly on February 17, 2007.

Gauchos Picked To Finish Second In Preseason Polls
For the first time in over a decade the Gauchos were not selected to win the Big West Conference regular season title by either the coaches or the media in voting conducted at the league's annual media day Oct. 25. UCSB finished second in both polls behind regular season and conference tournament champion UC Riverside, who received eight first place votes and 64 total points to capture the top spot in the preseason coaches' poll. Santa Barbara received one first place vote and 57 points, finishing a unanimous second. UC Davis was chosen to finish third with 44 points, while Cal Poly received the fourth place nod with 41. Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton, Pacific, Cal State Northridge, and UC Irvine followed rounding out the poll. In the media poll, the Gauchos received one first place vote and 81 total points to finish second behind the Highlanders, who garnered nine first place votes and 89 points. Complete results of the voting can be seen at the bottom left of this page.

Green, Wilson Tabbed Preseason All-Conference
When the media selected a Preseason All-Big West Team at this year's annual media day, UCSB had two players selected, marking the sixth consecutive year a Gaucho made the squad. Senior center Jenna Green earned one of the six spots for a third consecutive year after earning All-Big West First Team honors last season. The San Jose, Calif. native led the Gauchos in points (16.6), rebounds (7.1), and blocked shots (1.7) for the second straight year, while shooting a league-best 53.7% from the field in 2006-07. Green was the only player to start all 33 games for UCSB last season. Also earning a nod for the preseason all-conference squad was senior guard Jessica Wilson. Wilson led the Big West averaging 4.5 assists and finished in the conference's top 10 in six major statistical categories. The Sacramento, Calif. native earned a second consecutive Second Team All-Big West selection after averaging 13.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in 31 games a year ago.

UCSB Inks Two For 2008-09
UC Santa Barbara signed a pair of high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during the early signing period, head coach Mark French announced Nov. 16. Emilie Johnson, a 5'6" point guard from Roseville, Calif. and Megan Kritscher, a 6'3" forward from Woodland, Calif. will join the Gauchos for the 2008-09 season as true freshmen. Johnson is in her senior season at Del Oro High School in Roseville, where she was named the 2006-07 Sierra Foothill League MVP after averaging 15.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 3.2 steals, while shooting 43% from the field as a junior last season. The only junior to earn a spot on the Sacramento Bee All-Metro First Team, Johnson led the Golden Eagles to 26-2 record and a third consecutive SFL championship a year ago. She is a three-time all-league selection and was named the Sonora Kiwanis Tournament MVP as a sophomore in 2006. Kritscher signs with UCSB after averaging 12.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 5.5 blocked shots per game as a junior at Pioneer High School last season. An All-Tri-County League selection, Kritscher scored a career-best 22 points while hauling in 11 rebounds and blocking three shots to lead the Patriots to a 44-30 victory over rival Woodland High School last year and recorded a career-high 10 blocks in a game against Inderkum. She was also an all-league performer in volleyball for PHS last season.