March 20, 2008

No. 13 UCSB Heads To Norfolk To Square Off With Fourth-Seeded Virginia In NCAA Tournament First Round

March 20, 2008

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2008 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship • Greensboro Regional
Norfolk, Va. • Ted Constant Convocation Center (8,600)

First Round • Sunday, March 23, 2008
No. 12 Liberty (28-3) vs. No. 5 Old Dominion (29-4) • 4:00 p.m. PDT
No. 13 UC Santa Barbara (23-7) vs. No. 4 Virginia (23-9) • 6:30 p.m. PDT
Second Round • Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 • 4:00 or 6:30 p.m. PDT

2007-08 Gaucho Record
23-7 overall/15-1 Big West Conference
10-3 home/10-3 away/3-1 neutral

Gauchos Are Dancing Again
After winning a 12th Big West Conference Tournament title last week, UC Santa Barbara advances to the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship for the first time in three years this weekend in Norfolk, Va. The Gauchos were awarded a No. 13 seed by the selection committee and will square off with fourth-seeded Virginia in the First Round of the Greensboro Regional on Sunday at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. UCSB's tilt with UVa is scheduled for approximately 6:30 p.m. PDT or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first match-up of the day, a clash between No. 5 Old Dominion and No. 12 Liberty. The winner of each opening round contest will then meet on Tuesday, Mar. 25 at a time yet to be determined with a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16 at stake.

Great in 2008
After starting the 2007-08 season 4-6, the Gauchos enter Sunday's first round match-up with Virginia winners of 19 of their last 20 games. UCSB's impressive run -- one that featured an unbeaten streak of 14 games -- began on December 29 with a 74-66 victory over Ole Miss. Santa Barbara stormed through Big West Conference play, finishing 15-1 during the regular season before defeating Cal Poly and UC Davis last week in Anaheim, Calif. to capture a 10th league tournament title in the last 12 seasons and earn the Big West's automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos have lost just once in games played in 2008 and have won five straight to bring their season record to 23-7 entering the Big Dance.

UCSB In the NCAAs
The Gauchos own a record of 7-11 in 11 previous NCAA Tournament appearances, reaching the second round a total of five times before finally advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history in 2004. Santa Barbara was awarded a No. 11 seed that season and hosted early round play in the Thunderdome, where the Gauchos scored upsets over No. 6 Colorado (76-49) and third-seeded Houston (56-52) to reach the East Region Semifinals. UCSB then traveled to Hartford, Conn., and dropped a 63-55 decision to No. 2 seed UConn in what proved to be the Huskies' slimmest margin of victory during their run to a third straight national title. Santa Barbara's last Big Dance appearance came in 2005, when the Gauchos were defeated by Notre Dame in the first round by a 61-51 margin. UCSB absolutely dominated the Big West from 1997 through 2005, winning 25 consecutive games in the conference tournament and earning the league's automatic bid in the NCAAs nine years in a row.

Gauchos on the Air, Web, & Tube
All of UCSB's NCAA Tournament games will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM with Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties. KCSB's dynamic duo of Rob Garcia and Alex Pavlovic are making the trip to Norfolk as well, and their broadcast can be heard live on KCSB 91.9 FM or online at www.kcsb.org. If radio isn't your thing you can follow the action as it happens with CSTV's GameTracker at www.UCSBgauchos.com. Finally, ESPN2 will televise both the first and second rounds live with Marc Kestecher and Brenda VanLengen calling the action on "The Deuce".

Who Are We?
When referring to our team please use "UC Santa Barbara" as a first reference to our school. No hyphens, commas, nor the words "California" or "Cal" are needed. Afterwards, "UCSB", "Gauchos" and "Santa Barbara" are all acceptable references to our campus by the sea and the teams which represent it. Lastly, we are the Gauchos, not the Lady Gauchos.

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 438-199 (.688) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 536-313 (.631). 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 - Averaged team-highs of 14 points and 4 assists in two games in Anaheim.
G - Lauren Pedersen - The Gauchos are 19-2 when she is in the starting lineup.
G - Jessica Wilson - UCSB's leading scorer and rebounder at 12.8 and 6.4, respectively.
F - Whitney Warren - A Big West All-Tournament Team selection after averaging 11 points and 3.5 boards.
F - Kat Suderman - Has scored in double figures a total of 17 times in 2007-08.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Averaging 12.8 points and 5.4 rebounds over the last five games.
G - Meagan Williams - Shooting 45% (65-146) from the field this season.
G - Ariana Gnekow - Played a total of 4 minutes against Cal Poly and UC Davis last week.
F - Ashlee Brown - Leads the squad shooting 48.7% from the field as a freshman.
F - Jordan Franey - Was 2-for-3 with 5 points in Big West title game win over the Aggies.
F - Margaret Johnson - Finished with a career-high 14 points in win over Cal State Northridge Mar. 6.
C - Jessie Goble - Tallied personal bests of 4 points and 2 blocks vs. the Matadors two weeks ago.

Santa Barbara Cruises to 12th Big West Tournament Title
Sha'Rae Gibbons scored 15 points to lead five Gauchos in double figures as UCSB ran past Central Coast rival Cal Poly, 77-57 in the semifinals of the Big West Conference Tournament on Friday, Mar. 14. Playing their third game in the three days, the Mustangs were no match for top-seeded Gauchos, who raced out to a 12-4 lead after the first four minutes and never looked back, cruising to the 20-point win. For the game, Santa Barbara finished 46% from the field and 42% from behind the arc. UCSB trailed UC Davis 24-14 in the championship game the next day after the Aggies drained four threes in the first 11 minutes, but t responded with a 14-3 run in the final 4:40 of the opening half to take a 38-34 lead into the locker room. After Davis tied the game at 42 three minutes into the second, Santa Barbara outscored the Aggies 17-2 over the next nine minutes to take a commanding 59-44 lead and went on to win by the same margin (74-59) to capture a 12th conference tournament title. Tournament MVP Jessica Wilson led the way with 16 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, while Gibbons added 13 points and four helpers for a Gaucho team that shot 49% from the field and hit 54.2% of its shots from the three-point line.

Four Gauchos Earn All-Conference Honors, Wilson Named Player of the Year
After winning a 12th Big West regular season title in the last 13 years, UCSB had a total of four players selected to all-conference teams when the annual awards came out on Mar. 10. Senior guard Jessica Wilson was named the 2007-08 Big West Player of the Year after earning her first-career first team selection. The Sacramento, Calif. native ranked in the Big West's Top 10 in five statistical categories, including scoring, rebounding, and steals. Joining Wilson on the first team was junior forward Kat Suderman, who appeared in 26 games for UCSB during the regular season and averaged career-highs in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, blocked shots, and minutes per game. Sha'Rae Gibbons earned a spot on the All-Big West Honorable Mention squad after appearing in all 28 games during the regular season and ranking third on the team in scoring and second in assists. Lastly, Ashlee Brown was named to the Big West All-Freshman squad after leading the team shooting 49% from the field and reaching double figures a total of eight times during the regular season.

Now, That's Special
UCSB also took home two of the three Big West Specialty Awards as Whitney Warren was named the conference's Defensive Player of Year and Ashlee Brown garnered Sixth Woman accolades. Warren appeared in 26 games for Santa Barbara during the regular season and ranked fifth on the team averaging 4.0 rebounds per game and fourth with 24 steals. Brown was named the conference's sixth woman after coming off the bench in 23 of her 28 games and scoring a career-high 22 points to lead UCSB to a 70-62 victory over UC Riverside on Mar. 1.

A Good Time To Find Your Stroke
UCSB has not been very good from the three-point line this season, but the Gauchos have found their stroke lately, shooting 44% (19-43) from behind the arc over the last three games. After Santa Barbara finished 8-for-20 in the regular season finale against Long Beach State Mar. 8, the Gauchos made 5-of-12, 42%, in the win over Cal Poly in the Big West Tournament Semifinals last Friday. UCSB followed that performance with a 6-for-11 effort in the championship on Saturday, sinking all six in what became the decisive first half. At 54.5%, Saturday's percentage was the Gauchos second-highest clip from distance this season and highest since the team made 8-of-13, 61.5%, in the win over Santa Clara Nov. 29.

Ball Control
Santa Barbara entered the Big West Conference Tournament averaging over 18 turnovers per game, but took excellent care of the basketball in the two wins in Anaheim. The Gauchos finished with just 12 turnovers in the 77-57 semifinal victory over Cal Poly and then had just six -- that's right six -- miscues in the 74-59 win over UC Davis in the championship. Not only was six turnovers the fewest by any Big West team this season, it was UCSB's lowest total in a game since the Gauchos also finished with six in an 86-50 rout over Idaho Feb. 5, 2004. Santa Barbara's previous low for the year was 10 that came in the overtime win over Cal Poly on Feb. 16. The Gauchos are 16-3 when finishing with fewer turnovers than the opposition in 2007-08.

Shoot For 60
There is no questioning the fact that the Gauchos will need to play excellent defense if they want to advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But at the same time, UCSB's offense has had a great deal to do with the team's success this season. Consider this: Santa Barbara is an impressive 22-2 when scoring 60 or more points this season and just 1-5 when failing to reach the 60-point mark. Furthermore, Santa Barbara has been extremely tough to beat when shooting better than 40% from the field, posting a record of 19-2 when that happens, compared to a 4-5 mark when shooting under 40%. In fact, UCSB has shot better than 40% in 13 of its last 15 games and posted a record of 14-1 over that span. If the Gauchos can continue to dictate tempo and exert their will on the offense end, you've got to like their chances against the Cavaliers.

Board Games
Well, by now you should know that we can't talk barometers for UCSB's success without bringing rebounds into the conversation. Let's simplify things for those that are just tuning in: When the Gauchos get it done on the backboards, they are very tough to beat. Santa Barbara is an impressive 18-2 when out-rebounding its opponent this season and just 4-5 when the opposition controls the glass. UCSB has been downright dominant on the boards over the last the 20 games, posting a double-digit rebounding margin nine times over that span including a season-best +32 after grabbing 56 boards in a win at Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 7. The Gauchos, who led the Big West in rebounding margin all season, have been out-rebounded just three times in the last 20 and still won two of those contests. Santa Barbara enters NCAA Tournament play with an overall rebounding margin of +5.7, a figure that ranks 32nd in the nation.

Quick Hits
After victories over Cal Poly and UC Davis in the Big West Tournament last week, the Gauchos are now a perfect 18-0 this season when leading at halftime and 4-7 when trailing at the break... A total of eight players have led Santa Barbara in scoring in 2007-08 with Jessica Wilson leading the way a team-high eight times...UCSB is now a perfect 9-0 when four or more players reach double figures after five Gauchos scored 10 or more in the win over the Mustangs and four reached double digits in the victory over the Aggies...Santa Barbara has been very successful in close games this season, posting an impressive record of 14-3 in outcomes decided by 10 points or less and a 4-2 mark in games decided by five or less...UCSB has been excellent away from home in 2007-08, posting a record of 10-3 in true road contests and a 3-1 mark in games played at neutral sites...The Gauchos enter NCAA Tournament play sporting an offense that ranked first in the Big West averaging 69.5 points per game...Santa Barbara ranked second defensively, allowing just 64.0 points per contest.

Wilson Watch
With a layup with 2:38 remaining in the Gauchos' 73-61 win over defending Big West champion UC Riverside Jan. 31, senior guard Jessica Wilson became 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 and has scored 370 through 30 games in 2007-08 after finishing with a team-high 16 against UC Davis in the Big West Tournament Championship last Saturday. Currently sitting in the No. 19 spot on UCSB's all-time scoring charts with 1,144 career points, she now needs just 11 to pass Jess Hansen (1999-2003) for the 18th spot on the list. Wilson joins teammate Jenna Green as a member of the elite 1,000 point club and they became 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 against Cal Poly on February 17, 2007 and currently ranks 17th on the all-time charts.

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.