Nov. 4, 2005
Exhibition Game 1 Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005 2:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. Cal State Bakersfield The Thunderdome (6,000)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
0-0 overall/0-0 Big West Conference
0-0 home/0-0 away/0-0 neutral
ESPN/USA Today Rank: RV
Associated Press Rank: N/A
UCSB Faces A Fellow Collegiate Team for First Time in Exhibition History
As is the case every year, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball tune-up for its upcoming season with exhibition action in the Thunderdome. However for the first time ever in 2005-06, the Gauchos will face fellow NCAA competition as opposed to foreign teams or traveling professional squads. A young UCSB team featuring nine underclassmen makes its public debut on Sunday, Nov. 6 at 2:00 p.m. against Cal State Bakersfield, which plays in the NCAA Division II California Collegiate Athletic Association. All fans who fill out a voucher available at www.ucsbgauchos.com or outside the Thunderdome on gameday will receive free admission. Meanwhile the Gauchos' second exhibition slated for Friday, Nov. 11 against Cal Poly Pomona has been cancelled due to an overscheduling of permissible preseason competition. UCSB participated in an Oct. 29 scrimmage against Westmont College that counts towards the NCAA's two-game exhibition limit.
Gauchos on the Air
Sunday's exhibition game will be broadcast live on KTLK 1340AM in Santa Barbara with Steve Wendt calling the play-by-play and "$1.98" Don Ford providing color commentary. All of Santa Barbara's games in 2005-06 can also be heard live via the internet by pointing your browser to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass".
A Look Back at 2004-05
In 2004-05 Santa Barbara extend its impressive streaks of Big West Conference regular season titles and NCAA Tournament appearances to 10 and nine straight years, respectively, but it was no easy task during an injury-riddled campaign that saw Gaucho players miss a collective 121 games. After falling to Idaho twice during the regular season, UCSB then trailed the Vandals by 11 points in the second half of the Big West Tournament championship game before storming back for a 79-67 win to earn an automatic berth in the Big Dance. As a No. 13 seed, Santa Barbara fell 61-51 to No. 4 Notre Dame in first round NCAA action in Fresno, Calif., but had rallied within four points in the waning minutes. The Gauchos finished with a 21-9 overall record and 16-2 mark in Big West play, marking the 10th straight year they have finished with 20 or more victories and 11th consecutive year with single-digit losses.
If Big West Conference coaches and media members are accurate prognosticators, then the Gauchos will win their unprecedented 11th consecutive regular season conference title in 2005-06. In polls conducted Wednesday, Nov. 2 at the league's annual media day in Irvine, Calif., six of the eight coaches picked UCSB to repeat yet again, while nine of 10 media members in attendance did the same. Long Beach State was tabbed second in both polls. Meanwhile the Gauchos will also enter the season with some national recognition as they appear in the "Others Receiving Votes" section of the ESPN/USA Today Top-25 Coaches' Poll with four total points.
UC Santa Barbara alumnus Mark French is in his 19th season as head coach of the Gauchos and the 27th year of his immensely successful career. He currently owns a UCSB record of 380-164 (.699) and an overall mark of 478-278 (.632). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 14 years, French's Gauchos have won 11 Big West Conference titles and advanced to 11 NCAA Tournaments - including five second rounds and a Sweet 16 appearance - as well as one Postseason WNIT. 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.
Probable Starters Notes #34 Autumn Nichols Sr. F UCSB's top returning scorer and rebounder from 2004-05 #33 Jenna Green So. F/C Returns after missing last season with torn left MCL #3 Jessica Wilson So. G Big West All-Freshman Team selection in 2004-05 #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Set new career highs in every statistical category last year #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G 26th on list of California's top seniors by Grass Roots Sports
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Member of two CIF Div. III State championship teams #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Marin County Athletic League MVP in 2004-05 #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Buried 18 of final 35 three-pointers (51.4%) last season #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Limited to just six games as rookie due to groin injury #25 Brittanie Taylor-James So. G/F Averaged 7.6 minutes in 22 games played as a rookie #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F NorCal Hoops rated her as the region's No. 9 senior #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C 3.2 points, 2.5 rebounds per tilt during freshman season
In just its sixth year of existence, Cal State Bakersfield has already experienced tremendous success, reaching the NCAA Tournament each season including a West Regional appearance in 2004-05 when the Roadrunners posted a 20-8 overall record. CSUB returns three starters including senior guard Katie McElree, the top returning scorer in Division II hoops with 23.4 points per game last season. The Gauchos have never before faced Bakersfield, which plays its second exhibition game against a Big West school Nov. 11 at Cal Poly.
The Bako Bunch
Three members of the UCSB program have roots in the Bakersfield area. Head coach Mark French is a 1969 graduate of Bakersfield High School, where his father served as principal for many years. Gaucho senior forward Autumn Nichols is also a BHS alum, leading the Drillers to a Southwest Yosemite League title as a senior in 2000-01. Finally, sophomore guard Ana Onaindia was a two-time Bakersfield Californian Player of the Year at North High School and established a CIF Central Section record with 979 points scored as a senior in 2003-04.
The Gauchos' .805 winning percentage since the start of the 1997-98 campaign places them in some rather elite company. Only Connecticut, Tennessee, Louisiana Tech and Duke have won a higher percentage of their games over the past seven seasons than UCSB, which owns a 206-50 record during that span.
Santa Barbara decade-long dominance of the Big West ranks as the longest current streak of outright conference championships in the entire nation. Louisiana Tech has captured 13 straight league titles - split between the Sun Belt and Western Athletic Conferences - but has shared top honors with other schools three times during its run. Meanwhile the Gauchos have never finished fewer than two games ahead of the pack, posting an 151-9 (.944) league record since 1995-96.
A pair of fifth-year senior co-captains will provide leadership for the Gauchos. Guard Karena Bonds started all 29 games she appeared in last season and is widely regarded as the team's top defender. The Morro Bay, Calif., native established new career highs in every statistical category, posting all five of her double-digit scoring efforts in 2004-05. Meanwhile post player Autumn Nichols averaged 9.9 points, 5.2 boards and 58.8% shooting while starting each of the final 21 contests as a redshirt junior. She is UCSB's top returning scorer and rebounder.
Sophomores, but Certainly not Sophomoric
UCSB also features a pair of former Big West All-Freshman Team members in Jessica Wilson and Jenna Green. Wilson's rookie campaign in 2004-05 was highlighted by an 18-point performance at UC Riverside, while Green earned her honors in 2003-04 before suffering a torn left MCL early last season. In three games prior to her injury the San Jose, Calif., native averaged 13.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 65.5% shooting, gaudy enough numbers to earn herself a spot on the 2005-06 Preseason All-Big West Team.
Who Are These Gals?
The Gaucho roster features four true freshmen, two of whom were considered among the best the Golden State had to offer in 2004-05. Point guard LaShay Fears earned a No. 26 ranking from Grass Roots Sports on its list of California's top high school seniors, while post player Shantel Thomas - who actually played primarily in the backcourt last year - was ranked 45th by the same organization. Rookie guard Whitney Warren will be counted on as a defensive stopper, and knows what it takes to win in the postseason after helping Bishop Montgomery High school capture a pair of CIF Division III State titles. The newest Gaucho is point guard Kim Smith, who joined the squad in early October after earning Marin County Athletic League MVP acclaim as a high school senior last year.