November 15, 2007

Gauchos Hit The Road Bound For No. 14 ASU, LMU This Weekend

Nov. 15, 2007

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The Schedule
Game No. 3
Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 3:00 p.m. PT
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils
Wells Fargo Arena (14,198)

Game No. 4
Monday, November 19, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. PT
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Loyola Marymount Lions
Albert Gersten Pavilion (4,156)

This Week
After a pair of home contests to open the season, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team will leave the friendly confines of the Thunderdome for the first time and hit the road for five of the next six. The Gauchos will take on their first ranked opponent of 2007-08 when they square of with No. 14 Arizona State this Saturday in Tempe. Tip-off for UCSB's clash with ASU is slated for 3:00 p.m. PT (4:00 p.m. local time). The Gauchos will then return to California for a match-up with Loyola Marymount Monday at 7:00 p.m. Santa Barbara's only other home game before mid-December is a meeting with nationally-ranked Maryland Friday, November 23 in the Thunderdome.

For the Record
UCSB split its first two games of the season last week and enters it's match-up with Arizona State with an overall record of 1-1. BYU used an 18-4 run to close the first half and the Gauchos could not recover, shooting just 30.5% from the field in a 61-50 home defeat last Friday. The loss was just the second for Santa Barbara in a season opener in the last 14 years. UCSB struggled to find its shot early on against USC Sunday as well, but an outstanding effort on the defensive end kept the Gauchos close until they came roaring back with an incredible run over the final four minutes of regulation to tie the game and force overtime. Santa Barbara scored the first nine points of the extra session and went on to win its first game of the year, 69-63. UCSB finished with an overall record of 19-14 in 2006-07 and advanced to a second straight WNIT, where they defeated San Diego 75-63 in the first round before falling 70-54 at Oregon in the second.

Gauchos on the Air & Web
The upcoming contests with the Sun Devils and Lions, 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 yours truly will try not to scare away listeners with color commentary for most road broadcasts. Fans can also watch all games live via the internet by going to www.bigwest.tv 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.

At Home on the Road
If this year's team is anything like the 2006-07 squad, then the Gauchos have to like their chances hitting the road for five of their next six games over the next month. Strange as it may seem, UCSB was a far better team on the road last season than at home. The Gauchos were just 8-9 (.470) in games played in the Thunderdome a year ago, which was Santa Barbara's worst performance at home since 1987-88 -- Mark French's first season as head coach. On the other hand, UCSB was spectacular on the road, posting a very impressive mark of 10-4 (.714) in true road games. In fact, the four road losses were the fewest since the 2002-03 team that finished 27-5 overall also lost four. The Gauchos were 1-1 in neutral sites contests in 2006-07.

Gauchos vs. Nation's Best
UCSB struggled against ranked opponents last season, dropping all four of its meetings with teams ranked in the Top 25. The Gauchos lost by their largest margin of the season at defending national champion and then-ranked No. 1 Maryland December 2 (105-44) and also lost home match-ups with No. 24 Louisville (72-66), No. 20 Michigan State (69-45), and No. 8 Stanford (84-59).

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. Having just begun his 21st season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 416-193 (.683) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 514-307 (.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 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.

Gauchos Pull Off Thrilling Comeback Against USC
While the Gauchos did come away with a 69-63 victory over USC last Sunday, it took a game-tying jumper by Jessica Wilson on UCSB's final possession and an overtime period to get it done. Santa Barbara trailed for nearly 40 minutes in a game where points were at a premium, but used a 16-3 run over the final the final 4:40 of regulation to tie the score in dramatic fashion. With the Gauchos trailing 50-37 and less than five minutes remaining, Sha'Rae Gibbons tallied six straight points to ignite the attack, Kat Suderman scored on back-to-back possesions, and Chisa Ononiwu sank two free-throws after a Trojan layup to cut the deficit to just three, 52-49. USC then missed the back end of a one-and-one and Lauren Pedersen found Suderman for an easy bucket on the next possesion. Gibbons stole the ensuing inbounds pass to set up the final play with 15 seconds on the clock and the Gauchos trailing, 53-51. After a timeout, Gibbons found Wilson all alone on the left side and the two-time All-Big West selection knocked down the jumper as time expired to force overtime and send the Thunderdome crowd into pandemonium. Gibbons teamed with Suderman to score the first nine points of the extra period and Santa Barbara closed out the improbable victory. The Gauchos pulled out the win missing their first 12 shots and shooting just 34.3% for the game. UCSB held a 49-43 advantage on the boards, with 19 coming on the offensive end of the floor.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - Lauren Pedersen - Tallied 8 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals in her first week as a Gaucho.
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Averaged 7.0 points vs. BYU and USC after avering 16.5 in two exhibitions.
G - Jessica Wilson - Posted eighth career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds vs. BYU.
F - Jordan Franey - Tallied 4 points, 6 boards, 2 steals, 5 turnovers in starting role against USC.
C - Jenna Green - Expected to play after missing both games last week with a back injury.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Scored a career-best 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting in win over Trojans.
G - Ariana Gnekow - Made just 1-of-4 shots against BYU and USC last week.
G - Meagan Williams - Played a total of 7 minutes against Cougars and Trojans.
F - Kat Suderman - 16 points scored against USC was just 1 point shy of her career high.
F- Whitney Warren - Came off the bench Sunday after starting 31 games in 2006-07.
F- Ashlee Brown - Scored 7 points and hauled in 5 rebounds in loss to BYU.
F - Margaret Johnson - Averaged 7.0 minutes in first two games in the blue and gold.
C - Jessie Goble - Went 2-for-2 and scored a career-high 4 points against Women of Troy.

Injury Report - Notes
G - Courtney Collishaw - Will redshirt the season with a knee injury.

Scouting the Sun Devils
• The Gauchos will be tested once again this week when they visit 14th-ranked Arizona State Saturday afternoon. This weekend's contest marks the eighth meeting between the two schools with UCSB holding a 5-2 edge in the all-time series. The Gauchos and Sun Devils last squared off in the championship game of the 2000 ASU Holiday Classic, with Santa Barbara coming out on top 76-66, led by senior forward Rachelle Rogers' 17 points.

• ASU returns 10 letterwinners and three starters from last year's squad that finished with an overall record of 31-5 and took second in the Pac-10 Conference standings at 16-2. The Sun Devils advanced to the Elite Eight of last year's NCAA Tournament, where they lost a 64-45 decision to Rutgers, the eventual national finalists. Arizona State dropped its season opener to No. 8 North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Sunday despite 21 points from junior Danielle Orsillo and 13 from senior Jill Noe. The Sun Devils are currently ranked 14th in this week's USA Today/ESPN coaches poll and earned the No. 15 nod in the first AP Top 25 of the regular season.

Scouting the Lions
• After its clash with ASU, Santa Barbara will head to Los Angeles to battle Loyola Marymount Monday night. Despite last season's 63-58 loss to the Lions in the Thunderdome, UCSB leads the all-time series 8-4. Jenna Green finished 10-of-16 from the floor and scored a game-high 21 points but it was to no avail as LMU went on to win the December 19 meeting. Amanda DeCoud led the Lions with 18 points off the bench.

• Loyola Marymount welcomes back eight letterwinners and three starters from its 2006-07 team that finished with a mark of 19-11 overall and placed third in the West Coast Conference standings at 9-5. The Lions bring a record of 1-1 into the second week of the season after defeating UNLV 61-59 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Sunday. Junior guard Cassady Moore has averaged a team-high 12.0 points over LMU's first two games, while senior forward Valerie Ogoke has been a machine down low, averaging 9.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. LMU will travel to Long Beach State Thursday, before hosting the Gauchos on Monday.

Barometer For Success
If the Gauchos are to find success against Arizona State and Loyola Marymount on the road this week, they will need to control the glass. As we saw throughout the 2006-07 season -- and through two games so far in 2007-08 -- rebounds have been an incredibly important stat for Mark French's club. UCSB won 89.5% of the games in which the Gauchos outrebounded their opponent last season, finishing with a mark of 17-2 on such occasions. Flipping the coin, Santa Barbara went just 2-11 in contests when the opposition controlled the boards in 2006-07. The pattern held true last week, as the Gauchos were outrebounded 37-34 in the loss to BYU, but hauled in 49 rebounds to the Trojans' 43 in Sunday's win.

Green Day
Saturday's contest at ASU will mark the debut of Jenna Green in 2007-08 after the senior center missed the first two games of the season with a back injury. After starting all 33 games a year ago, the two-time All-Big West First Team selection was sorely missed last week as the Gauchos' post players combined to score just 10 points in the loss to BYU. UCSB struggled to establish an inside presence for much of the game against USC as well, getting only 22 points from the front court, with all but two of Suderman's 16 points coming in the second half and overtime. Green has started 62 of a possible 63 games over the last two seasons since recovering from a torn MCL in her left knee that forced her to miss all but three games in 2004-05. Since the start of 2005-06, UCSB is 1-2 without the San Jose, Calif. native in the lineup, losing the two games by an average of 12 points.

Gibbons Shines in UCSB's Thrilling Win Over USC
Sha'Rae Gibbons has waited a long time to show the Gaucho faithful what she's capable of and her time finally came Sunday against USC. After injuries limited her to just 10 games and a total of 41 minutes in 2006-07, Gibbons played 20 minutes off the bench against the Trojans and had a breakout performance in UCSB's come-from-behind victory. The Sacramento, Calif. native scored 11 of her game-high 19 points during the Gauchos' rally during the final 4:40 and in the decisive overtime period and was credited with the steal that set up the game-tying shot at the end of regulation. Gibbons shot a very impressive 6-for-7 from the floor against USC - including a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the three-point arc -- while recording four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. In what was far and away her best game as a Gaucho, Gibbons set new career marks in virtually every offensive category, including points, field goals made, field goals attempted, three-pointers made, free-throws made, and rebounds. Her previous career high was eight points that came at UC Irvine December 30, 2004. Gibbons, who was 2-for-6 with six points in the loss to BYU, scored a total of just three points in 2006-07.

Kat is Back
It took Kat Suderman a game to shake off the rust, but the junior forward had a tremendous showing in just her second game since returning to the lineup this season. After redshirting the 2006-07 season to recover from knee surgery, the San Luis Obispo, Calif. native struggled to find her shooting touch in her first game back, finishing 0-for-6 from the floor with zero points and four turnovers in the loss to BYU. Suderman then bounced back in a big way against USC, tallying 16 points on 8-for-14 shooting to go with four rebounds. Like Sha'Rae Gibbons, Suderman had a big hand in the Gauchos' comeback, scoring 10 of her 16 points in the final 3:03 of regulation and overtime to help lead UCSB all the way back to the 69-63 victory. Her 16 points was just one shy of her career high of 17 that came in a road contest at UC Irvine January 17, 2006. Suderman did set a new career mark for field goals attempted with 14, eclipsing her previous high of 13 that also came in a game against the Anteaters.

Same 'Ol Jess
Senior guard Jessica Wilson was up to her usual tricks in UCSB's games last week, filling up the stat sheet against the Cougars and Trojans. The Sacramento, Calif. native was the only Gaucho to score in double figures against BYU, finishing with her eighth-career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. She finished 4-of-9 from the floor and recorded two assists and four steals, doing her best to keep Santa Barbara close without Jenna Green. Wilson didn't shoot particularly well from the field against USC (3-for-11), but went 2-of-4 from downtown and finished with 10 points, six rebounds, three assists, and a block. She hit a long two as time expired to force overtime.

Coming Attractions
Following its contests at No. 14 Arizona State and Loyola Marymount, UCSB will return to the Thunderdome the day after Thanksgiving for a match-up with Maryland. The Gauchos will battle the Terps Friday, November 23 at 7:00 p.m. before hitting the road again for three straight from November 29-December 8.