BYU, USC Visit Thunderdome When Regular Season Tips Off This Weekend

BYU, USC Visit Thunderdome When Regular Season Tips Off This Weekend

Nov. 7, 2007

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The Schedule
Game No. 1
Friday, November 9, 2007 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. BYU Cougars
The Thunderdome (6,000)

Game No. 2
Sunday, November 11, 2007 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. USC Trojans
The Thunderdome (6,000)

This Week
The UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team opens the 2007-08 campaign this weekend with the first of 13 games in the Thunderdome in a match-up against Mountain West power BYU. The 11-time Big West Conference champions will take on the Cougars, who finished 23-9 overall and advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, in a clash slated to tip-off at 7:00 p.m. After that, the Gauchos will welcome USC to town in their only Sunday contest of the season. UCSB will battle the Trojans, who posted a 17-13 overall record and in 2006-07, at 2:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome.

Gauchos on the Air & Web
Both of the contests this weekend, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2007-08 will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Steve Wendt is back for his fourth season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos and former Los Angeles Laker and UCSB star Don Ford will provide color commentary for most of the broadcasts. UCSB's student radio station KCSB will also be broadcasting the games online at Fans can also watch all games live via the internet by going to and purchasing the UCSB season package. For the third straight year the Big West Conference and CSTV are partnering to bring exclusive Big West Gaucho events to fans online. BigWest.TV offers on-demand access to LIVE coverage of Big West contests as well as press conferences, features, and Big West Championships.

2006-07 At A Glance
With limited personnel for a variety of reasons, UCSB had a rough time in the early part of the 2006-07 season and dropped five of its first six games. The Gauchos responded to their worst loss in years at defending national champion Maryland with a win at Richmond Dec. 4 and followed that with a home victory over Weber State three days later. The turning point in the season finally came Dec. 18 at Pepperdine, when Santa Barbara erased a 15-point deficit to defeat the Waves 78-67. That game also marked the debut of Chisa Ononiwu in a Gaucho uniform after the Baylor transfer had to sit out the first nine games. UCSB went on to win 13 of its final 19 during the regular season and posted a mark of 10-4 in Big West play. Despite its solid performance, the Gauchos finished second in the league standings, marking the first time since 1994-95 that Santa Barbara did not win at least a share of the Big West regular season title. UCSB defeated Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Tournament Semifinals and advanced to face regular season champion UC Riverside in the title game for the second year in a row but came up short once again, falling 70-67. Even with the loss, Santa Barbara made a 12th consecutive postseason appearance, earning a second straight WNIT bid. The Gauchos defeated the University of San Diego 75-63 on the road before losing at Oregon 70-54 in the second round to end the season. UCSB finished 19-14 overall, adding three wins to its total from the year before.

Starting With A Bang
UCSB has traditionally been very tough to beat in its first game of the season and has won 12 of its last 13 season openers dating back to 1994-95. In fact, the Gauchos had won 11 straight openers before losing an 86-55 decision to a very talented Michigan State team in 2005. Santa Barbara bounced back with an impressive 88-73 win over Portland State to tip things off last season and start a new streak. UCSB led for all but two minutes and shot 43.7% from the floor in the victory. Santa Barbara also controlled the glass, out-rebounding the Vikings, 45-34. Jessica Wilson scored a career-high 30 points on 12-for-20 shooting to lead four Gauchos in double figures.

Mr. Gaucho
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 21st season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 415-192 (.683) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 513-306 (.626). 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 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.

UCSB Picks Up Pair of Victories In Exhibition Play
The Gauchos took the court for the first time last week in two exhibition contests in the Thunderdome and took care of business, posting wins wins over NAIA schools Vanguard and Westmont. With several key players out of the lineup against the Lions last Wednesday, Santa Barbara still managed to shoot a blistering 78.3% (18-23) in the second half after trailing by five at the break and pulled away for a 94-77 victory. Chisa Ononiwu led five Gauchos in double figures with 18 points, while Ariana Gnekow chipped in with 15 off the bench and Lauren Pedersen scored 10 and dished out nine assists in her debut in the blue and gold. UCSB was shorthanded once again Sunday against crosstown foe Westmont, but picked up right where it left off, shooting 69.2% (18-26) from the floor in the first half to take a commanding 47-27 lead at halftime. It was more of the same in the second and the Gauchos led by as many as 29 points on the way to the 79-55 final over the Warriors. Ononiwu led the way again with 15 points, while Kat Suderman and Sha'Rae Gibbons looked very impressive in starting roles, finishing with 10 apiece.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - Lauren Pedersen - Recorded 10 points, 9 assists, 4 steals in exhibition win vs. Vanguard.
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Led the team averaging 16.5 points in two exhibition contests.
G - Jessica Wilson - Tallied 8 points and 8 assists in only preseason tune-up Saturday.
F- Whitney Warren - Suffered minor head injury vs. Vanguard, sat out vs. Westmont.
F - Kat Suderman - Finished in double figure points in first two games back from redshirt year.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Scored 10 points and dished out 5 assists as starting point guard Saturday.
G - Ariana Gnekow - Averaged 11.5 points and 6 rebounds off the bench last week.
G - Meagan Williams - Hit 50% of her three-point attempts in exhibitions.
G/F - Jordan Franey - Tallied 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals in win over Vanguard.
F- Ashlee Brown - Totaled 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots in exhibition play.
F - Margaret Johnson - Missed both exhibition contests with an ankle injury.
C - Jessie Goble - Went 2-for-4 with four points in 15 minutes vs. Westmont.

Injury Report - Notes
C - Jenna Green - Will miss both games this week with a back injury.
G - Courtney Collishaw - Expected to miss match-ups with BYU and USC with a knee injury.

Scouting the Cougars
• For the second year in a row UCSB will open the regular season in the Thunderdome when the Gauchos tip things off against BYU this weekend. Friday's contest marks the seventh meeting between the two schools with Santa Barbara leading the all-time series 4-2. The Cougars won the last match-up, however, posting a lop-sided 72-39 victory over the Gauchos in Provo, Utah Nov. 26, 2005. The 39 points was UCSB's lowest total in a game since 1990.

• BYU returns five letterwinners and four starters from last year's squad that finished with an overall record of 23-9 and won the Mountain West Conference regular season title with a mark of 12-4. The Cougars advanced to the NCAA Tournament but lost an 80-54 decision to Louisville in Los Angeles. Among the returnees are senior center Dan Kubik, who posted averages of 10.7 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 2006-07 and junior guard Mallary Gillespie who finished the year averaging 10.3 points and 3.8 rebounds per night.

Scouting the Trojans
• After its clash with BYU, Santa Barbara will then welcome USC to the Thundedome in a Sunday matinee in the 23rd meeting between the Gauchos and Trojans. Southern California leads the all-time series by a narrow 12-10 count after claiming the last match-up, 76-61 Feb. 26, 2004 in Los Angeles. Lindsey Taylor scored a game-high 23 points and Kristen Mann reached the 1,000 point mark for her career after finishing with 19, but it was not enough to overcome the women of Troy's hot shooting.

• USC returns 11 letterwinners but just one starter from its 2006-07 team that finished with a mark of 17-13 overall and placed fifth in the Pac-10 standings at 10-8. The lone returning starter is senior guard Allison Jaskowiak, who averaged 3.1 points and 3.3 rebounds in 27 games last season. Another notable returner is 2005-06 All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention honoree Camille LeNoir, who redshirted last season after having hip surgery. The junior guard averaged 12.7 points and ranked third in the conference dishing out 4.1 assists two years ago.

Gauchos Picked To Finish Where?
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 coducted 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 left of this page.

Green, Wlison Tabbed Preseason All-Conference
The media also chose a Preseason All-Big West Team and 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. Since we're talking about UCSB's seniors, you cannot discount the impact Chisa Ononiwu had last season after becoming eligible Dec. 18. The transfer from Baylor was third behind Green and Wilson averaging 11.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and guided the Gauchos to a 16-8 record after they went just 3-6 with her on the sidelines.

Junior Partners
In 2006-07, the junior trio of Jenna Green, Jessica Wilson, and Chisa Ononiwu assumed leadership roles on a Gaucho roster that did not feature a single senior. Fortunately, this year's corps of juniors will not be in the same position now that those three are entering their final season in the blue and gold. Guard/forward Whitney Warren enters her third season at UCSB after starting 31 games and posting career-highs of 7.2 points and 4.7 rebounds, while shooting 44.4% from the field as a sophomore last season. Guard Sha'Rae Gibbons returns completely healthy for the first time since the 2004-05 season and is primed to have a tremendous year after an injury-plagued season that saw her appear in just 10 games a year ago. The Gauchos will also have Kat Suderman back after the forward/center redshirted the 2006-07 to recover from knee surgery. The San Luis Obispo, Calif. native is rearing to go after averaging 6.2 points and 6.2 rebounds two years ago. Lastly, junior point guard Lauren Pedersen will make her Gaucho debut this week after transfering from UCLA prior to the start of the 2006-07 season. Pedersen has been very impressive in preseason workouts and has all the necessary tools to be a very good player at UCSB.

Sophomore Confidential
The Gauchos also have an experienced group of sophomores returning in 2007-08, with four players that appeared in a combined 122 games last season. Headlining the group is reigning Big West Freshman of the Year Jordan Franey, who led the team with 44 threes and averaged 8.6 points per game in 2006-07. Franey's ability to shoot and stretch opposing defenses should prove to be a tremendous asset for Santa Barbara again this season. Also returning is guard Meagan Williams who showed the potential to become a big time scorer at UCSB during her rookie campaign. Williams posted averages of 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds, while shooting a team-high 41% from behind the three point arc last year. Guard Ariana Gnekow was a huge part of the team's success in the early part of the season and averaged 3.1 points and 3.2 rebounds in 32 games. Gnekow looked grea in the exhibition wins over Vanguard and Westmont. Lastly, center Jessie Goble returns as one of the most-improved Gauchos this season and looks much stronger entering the year. The 6-foot-3 center averaged 0.3 points and 0.8 rebounds in 25 games in 2006-07.

Looking Ahead
Following this weekend's match-ups with BYU and USC, UCSB will hit the road to take on Arizona State Saturday, Nov. 17 before traveling to Loyola Marymount Monday, Nov. 19.