Gauchos Travel to SLO With Big West Title on the Line

Gauchos Travel to SLO With Big West Title on the Line

March 3, 2011

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• The Schedule
Saturday, March 5, 2011, at 4:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at Cal Poly (16-10, 12-3)
at Cal Poly's Mott Gym (3,032)
Series record vs. the Mustangs - 50-16
Streak - Lost 1
Last time out vs. the Mustangs - L, 54-51 @ UCSB (1/27/11)
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, February 26, 2011, at 2:00 p.m.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011, at 7:00 p.m.
ampm Big West Tournament First Round
UC Santa Barbara vs. TBA
at UCSB's Thunderdome (6,000)
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, February 26, 2011, at 2:00 p.m.

• 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

• vs. Cal Poly, 3/5
Saturday's regular-season finale will either give Cal Poly the Big West title outright or allow the Gauchos and Mustangs to split it. The Mustangs are led by Rachel Clancy's 16.7 points per game (second in the Big West) while Abby Bloetscher pulls in 7.2 rebounds per game (third in the conference) and Kayla Griffin hauls in 6.3 boards per game (eighth). Cal Poly has played all of its games without Kristina Santiago, last year's Big West Player of the Year, after she injured her ACL in the second minute of the first game of the season.

• If You're Not First, You're Last
UC Santa Barbara can clinch a share of the Big West regular-season crown with a victory on Saturday at Cal Poly. The Mustangs have already guaranteed themselves at least a share of their first-ever Big West title. If UCSB wins, it will mark the team's 14th Big West title.

• Playoffs? Are You Kidding Me?! Playoffs?
With last week's win over Long Beach State, the Gauchos assured themselves of a home game in the first round of the Big West Tournament on Tuesday, March 8. UCSB will be seeded either second or third in the tournament, even if the Gauchos win on Saturday. If UC Riverside and Santa Barbara finish with the same conference record, the Highlanders go in as the No. 2 seed and the Gauchos are No. 3.

• Annual Event
The Gauchos are in the midst of a six-game winning streak, their longest of the season and longest since ... this time last year. Last season UCSB went on a seven-game winning streak from February 20 to March 11. Two seasons ago, the Gauchos had a five-game winning streak from February 28 to March 14.

• Double-Digit Delight
UCSB has guaranteed itself of its 20th season in the last 21 that it will finish Big West play with double-digit victories and the 21st straight season that Santa Barbara will finish above .500 in the conference.

• Biggest in the Big West
To go along with the above note, the Gauchos have dominated the conference for more than a decade. Since the 1995-96 season, UCSB is 225-30 (.882) in Big West games.

• It's That Boom-Boom POW
Junior Emilie Johnson was named as the Big West Player of the Week on Monday after she averaged 22.0 points per game in a pair of wins last week. It is the second time this month - and fourth time in her career - that Johnson was honored by the conference with the weekly award. Johnson and Mekia Valentine have won three of the last four weekly honors.

• Points Aplenty
Emilie Johnson became the 23rd member of UCSB's 1,000-point club in the first half of Saturday's win over Cal State Northridge and already moved into 22nd place on the list, surpassing Lori Sanchez (1979-83) who finished with 1,019 points while Johnson has 1,021. Mekia Valentine has scored 296 points this season, giving her 1,017 in her career between Wake Forest and UCSB. Unfortunately she is not a member of UCSB's 1,000-point club as not all of her buckets came as a Gaucho (she scored 351 points at Wake).

• Double Dippers
Mekia Valentine is averaging 10.6 rebounds per game - first in the Big West - making it likely she will become the first Gaucho since Erika Kienast in 1991-92 to average double figures in rebounds. In eight of her last 11 games Valentine has grabbed double-digit rebounds. But let's not stop there. Valentine has the chance to become the first UCSB player since Kienast in that season to average a double-double over a season. Valentine is scoring 10.6 points per game, second-most on the team.

• Leading Lady
Emilie Johnson, whose 13.8 points per game are eighth in the Big West, leads the Gauchos in points, assists (88) and is second on the team in steals (30 to Kelsey Adrian's 31). Johnson has the chance to lead the team in those categories two straight seasons, which would be the third year in a row after Lauren Pedersen did it in the 2008-09 season.

• Mekia's Block Party
Mekia Valentine leads the Big West with her 3.7 blocked shots per game and ranks third in the nation. Valentine is second all-time in career blocked shots and became just the second Gaucho to reach 200 career blocked shots. Currently, her 103 blocks this season are second-most in school single-season history (behind her 120 set last year). Valentine trails only Lindsay Taylor (2000-04) by 20 swats for the most all-time in school history.

• Blocking Through the Big West
Mekia Valentine's career block total of 223 swats moved her into ninth place in Big West history. Valentine had recorded 103 total blocks this year, becoming just the fifth Big West player to post two 100-block seasons in conference history.

• Swat Team
This year's Gaucho squad has blocked 136 shots, tying them for third-most all-time in school history. As a team, the Gauchos are averaging 4.86 blocked shots per game, the best mark among Big West schools and 24th 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.

• Tickling the Twine
Mekia Valentine leads the Big West with her shooting percentage of 62.1%, which would easily be the best mark in school history. Right now Kira Anthofer's school record shooting percentage of 59.6% came in 1985-86 and Valentine shot 57.4% last season. Her current career shooting mark of 59.4% would be the best mark in UCSB history, topping Lindsay Taylor's (2000-04) current record of 55.9%.

• Tenacious D
As a team, UC Santa Barbara is holding opponents to a 35.5% shooting clip, the best mark in the Big West and 23rd-best in the nation. UCSB is also allowing teams to score just 58.6 points per game, which is the lowest in the Big West and 80th in the country. In 12 of the Gauchos' games, the team has held an opponent under 35% from the floor.

• Gottlieb's Legacy: Defense
The fact that the Gauchos are one of the nation's preeminent defensive teams 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.

• We're a Boarding School
Santa Barbara is averaging a conference-leading 40.4 rebounds per game, which leads the Big West. The Gauchos hold a +5.3 rebounding margin, which also is tops among conference schools and 39th in the nation. It's largely due to Mekia Valentine and Sweets Underwood, who rank first and fourth, respectively, in the Big West with averages of 10.6 rebounds and 7.1 rebounds per game.

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.