March 7, 2011
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Big West co-champion UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team was one of the best represented in the year-end conference awards that were announced on Monday, as four Gauchos were honored by the Big West.
Emilie Johnson, who leads the team in scoring with 13.9 points per game and has nine straight double-digit scoring efforts, was named a First Team All-Big West choice. It is the third time the junior has been honored by the Big West. In 2008-09 she was a member of the All-Freshman Team and last season she was a Second Team All-Big West pick.
"Emilie is the epitome of a student athlete role model type," UCSB head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. "There is no one who wants to do more to help the team win. She is the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. It's great to see her break out in the second half of conference play and to see her play with a swagger and confidence. If they say that the postseason is about guard play, we're happy to have Emilie in that position."
Mekia Valentine, who is averaging 11.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game, was honored twice as a Second Team All-Big West choice for the second consecutive season and her shot-blocking prowess earned her the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. Valentine ranks third in the nation with 3.7 blocks per game and has UCSB's top two single-season shot blocking records.
"I cant say enough about the year Mekia has had," Gottlieb said. "I'm a little surprised she wasn't one of the top seven players in our conference, but there are a lot of terrific players in our conference. She impacts the game on both ends of the court. I've seen her dominate a game with her rebounds and defense. I'm just really excited for the way Mekia's finished her year this year."
Sweets Underwood, averaging 8.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, was named to the Big West Honorable Mention squad, the fourth straight season a Gaucho has been awarded on that team.
Freshman guard Nicole Nesbit, who is averaging 6.9 points in 21.1 minutes off the bench, was named to the conference's All-Freshman Team. Nesbit becomes the fifth straight Gaucho named to the conference's frosh squad.
The Gauchos (19-10 overall and 12-4 in the Big West), seeded second in the tournament, host No. 7 Pacific (8-21, 5-11) on Tuesday, March 8 in the first round of the Big West Conference Tournament. Tickets are available by calling (805) 893-UCSB or by clicking here.
The game, as all women's basketball games are, will be broadcast live on AM 990 and and online by clicking here with the pregame show starting a half-hour prior to tip-off.