Nov. 2, 2006
Saturday, November 4, 2006 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Cal Poly Pomona Broncos
The Thunderdome (6,000)
2006-07 Gaucho Record
0-0 overall/0-0 Big West Conference
0-0 home/0-0 away/0-0 neutral
Gauchos on the Air & Web
Saturday's exhibition contest with the Broncos, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2006-07 will be broadcast live on KTLK 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. The one exception is UCSB's November 10 match-up against Portland State, which will air tape delayed at 6:00 p.m. Steve Wendt will be back for his third season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos and former Los Angeles Laker and UCSB star Don Ford will provide most of the color commentary. Fans can also catch all games live via the internet by going to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass".
Even though it won't count, Saturday's contest is important for the Gauchos for the simple fact that its their only exhibition tune-up before the regular season starts November 10. UCSB was scheduled to face Cal Poly Pomona during last year's exhibition season, but the game was cancelled due to an over-scheduling of permissible preseason competition dates. The Gauchos lost to Cal State Bakersfield 74-72 in their lone preseason exhibition contest of 2005-06.
They've Started Something
For the second consecutive year, UC Santa Barbara will open the 2006-07 campaign with an exhibition contest against a fellow NCAA opponent. Saturday's match-up against Cal Poly Pomona marks the second time that the Gauchos will take on a fellow collegiate team in an exhibition contest after UCSB welcomed Cal State Bakersfield to the Thunderdome last season. Prior to that contest, which was the first preseason exhibition with an NCAA team in program history, the Gauchos generally honed their skills against foreign teams or traveling professional squads.Cal Poly Pomona plays at the NCAA Division II level in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
2005-06 At A Glance
After losing five straight to open the season, UCSB finally turned things around with an impressive 90-81 overtime win over UCLA December 17. The victory was the second-ever for the Gauchos over the Bruins and was the first of a season-high five-game winning streak. Despite finishing 6-10 in non-conference play, Santa Barbara bounced back to win an impressive 11th consecutive Big West regular season title at 10-4, sharing the crown with Long Beach State. UCSB advanced to the conference tournament title game once again, but fell to UC Riverside 59-58 after Jessica Wilson's potential game-winning lay-up rattled off as time expired. The loss not only snapped the Gauchos' string of nine-straight Big West Tournament titles, but also meant they would not advance to a 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament. UCSB did qualify for the WNIT, however, falling 78-59 at Fresno State in the preliminary round. Santa Barbara finished 16-14 overall, missing the 20 win plateau for the first time since 1994-95.
So, You Like Our Chances
The media selected UCSB to win its 12th-consecutive Big West Conference regular season title in votes conducted Wednesday, October 26 at the league's annual media day. Santa Barbara received four first place nods and a total of 93 points to capture the top spot in the preseason media poll, finishing one spot ahead of UC Riverside, who received seven first place votes and a total of 92 points. Long Beach State, who shared the 2005-06 regular season title with the Gauchos, came in third with the three remaining first place votes and 83 total points. Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine, and Pacific followed, rounding out the poll. The Gauchos were chosen to finish second behind the Highlanders (47 points) by the conference's eight coaches, receiving three first place votes for a total of 43 points.
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. Entering his 20th season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 396-178 (.690) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 494-292 (.628). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 15 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 two 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 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. French is just six wins from the 500th career victory and four shy of his 400th victory at UCSB.
Scouting the Broncos
Cal Poly Pomona has been a Division II power for a long time and they have the hardware to show it. The Broncos have won a record five NCAA Division II championships and recorded more postseason victories (48) than any other D-II program. Interim head coach Michelle Fortier enters her first season at the helm of the Broncos, replacing long time coach Paul Thomas, who led Cal Poly Pomona to national titles in 2001 and 2002. CPP returns three starters from last year's squad that finished 11-16 overall, including top returning scorer Ashley Moody, who averaged 10.4 points per game. Although they have not met since 1991, the Gauchos and Broncos have squared off 23 times, with Pomoma holding a 20-3 advantage in the all-time series.
Green Tabbed Preseason All-Conference
For the second time in as many years junior center Jenna Green earned a spot on the six-player Preseason All-Big West Team after garnering first team all-conference honors last season. The San Jose, Calif. native led the Gauchos with averages of 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots per game in 2005-06. She started a career-high 29 games after missing all but three contests with a torn medial collateral ligament as a freshman in 2004-05. Green's selection marked the fifth consecutive year a UCSB player was chosen for the preseason all-conference squad.
Gauchos Look To Start Streaking
2005-06 was a very disappointing year by UCSB standards. Finishing just 16-14 last season and losing in the WNIT First Round, Coach French and the Gauchos had a number of streaks broken that they will be looking to reestablish this year. UCSB saw its streak of nine consecutive Big West Tournament titles come to a crashing halt after the narrow loss to UC Riverside in the title game. That being said, Santa Barbara did not receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and its string of nine-straight trips to the Big Dance was also severed. With a total of 16 victories, UCSB saw its span of 10 seasons with at least 20 wins broken, as well. Finally, although the Gauchos did win the Big West regular season title, they shared the honor with Long Beach State, which snapped their streak of 10-straight outright conference championships--a run that was the longest in the nation. Needless to say, UCSB will aim to start a new set of streaks in 2006-07.
O'Bryan, Thomas Leave UCSB
On October 17, head coach Mark French announced that two key players would not be with the Gauchos in 2006-07. Guard Erin O'Bryan and forward Shantel Thomas both left the program citing personal reasons. O'Bryan, who appeared in 27 games for UCSB last season, averaging 6.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, will not be back for her senior season. Thomas, on the other hand, is expected to return at some point, provided she maintains her eligibility. The Sacramento, Calif. native appeared in 25 games as a true freshman in 2005-06, averaging 2.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in 11.2 minutes per contest.
With the loss of O'Bryan, the only senior on the Gauchos' preseason roster, UCSB will look to its juniors for leadership this season. Center Jenna Green was healthy last season, starting 29 games and returns this year in incredible shape. The San Jose, Calif. native was UCSB's most consistent offensive weapon all season and established career highs of 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots per game. Guard Jessica Wilson had a breakout year as a sophomore last season, posting averages of 10.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.59 assists per contests. One of the squads best all-around athletes, the Gauchos will be dangerous If she can consistently perform at her highest levels this season. Finally, junior transfer Chisa Ononiwu will add depth in the backcourt when she becomes eligible after the early part of the season. A member of Baylor's 2005 championship team, Ononiwu is quick, she can penetrate, and she plays great defense.
Santa Barbara's roster features a quartet of sophomores who will all undoubtedly make a difference in 2006-07. Headlining the group of second year players is LaShay Fears, who started 29 games at the point a year ago. The Palmdale, Calif. native's rookie campaign was highlighted by a 20-point performance, including the eventual game-winning jumper to lead UCSB to an overtime victory over tourney-bound UCLA December 17. Also returning is guard Whitney Warren, who finished the season very strong scoring a season-high 12 points on 6-for-16 shooting in the Gauchos' WNIT loss at Fresno State. UCSB's most improved player this season is Kim Smith, who appeared in 20 games as a walk-on in 2005-06, and played a season-high 18 minutes at Weber State November 28. Lastly, Sha'Rae Gibbons returns to UCSB after taking a personal leave of absence last season, ready to build on her impressive freshmen campaign from two years ago. The Sacramento, Calif. native averaged 1.5 points, 1.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 27 games in 2004-05.
The fact that the Gauchos are going to be a young squad and not a particularly deep one means that UCSB's five freshman will have the opportunity to step in and make an impact this season. Jordan Franey (San Diego, Calif./Santana HS) comes to Santa Barbara no stranger to competing at the highest levels. She was a member of the Los Angeles-based Cal Swish Black club team and also guided Santana High School to back-to-back CIF Division III championships as a junior and senior. Meagan Williams (Sacramento, Calif./Sheldon HS) is another talented Golden State product and was a two-time Sacramento Player of the Year. Rookie forward Jessie Goble (Fallbrook, Calif./Fallbrook HS) will be considered in the post after setting the Fallbrook High School all-time record for blocked shots in a season as a senior, while Ariana Gnekow (Santa Ynez, Calif./Santa Ynez HS) is a talented guard that comes to UCSB having led SYHS to four consecutive Los Padres League championships. The newest Gaucho is forward Ashley Hall (Antioch, Calif./Deer Valley HS), a walk-on who joined the squad in late September after suffering a season-ending knee injury as a high school senior.