Gauchos Return Home with Hopes of Entering Win Column
Dec. 2, 2005
Game 6 Sunday, Dec. 4, 2005 2:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. Saint Mary's The Thunderdome (6,000)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
0-5 overall/0-0 Big West Conference
0-1 home/0-4 away/0-0 neutral
ESPN/USA Today Rank: NR
Associated Press Rank: NR
Gauchos Have Dropped Six Straight Dating Back to Last Season
After playing four of its first five contests out-of-state, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team remain in California for the rest of the 2005-06 regular season, beginning with a Sunday, Dec. 4 home game against Saint Mary's (2-3 overall). Tip-off in the Thunderdome is slated for 2:00 p.m. With a win over the Gaels, UCSB would avoid matching the worst start to a season in program history, occurring in 1992-93. The Gauchos rallied that year to reach the NCAA Tournament, a feat Santa Barbara has also achieved in each of the last nine seasons. In addition, UCSB enters Sunday's showdown looking to snap a six-game losing skid dating back to the first round of the 2005 Big Dance.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
The Gaucho-Gael clash will air live on KTMS 990AM in Santa Barbara with Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and "$1.98" Don Ford providing color commentary. Their broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". All of Santa Barbara's contests 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".
UCSB Shooters Go Ice-Cold on Two-Game Trip to Utah
With chilly temperatures and occasional snow flurries outside, Gaucho shooters were also ice-cold during a two-game roadtrip to Utah, shooting a combined 31.7% (40-of-126) en route to a pair of losses. On Saturday, Nov. 26 Santa Barbara fell victim to a 57.1% three-point performance by BYU in the Marriott Center, while the visitors missed all 13 of their shots from beyond the arc. UCSB trimmed ts deficit to 46-35 with 14:32 to play, but scored just four more points the rest of the way. Two days later at Weber State, the Gauchos appeared to rectify their field goal woes with a solid low-post game, building a 32-28 advantage at intermission for their first halftime lead of the season. However, Santa Barbara missed 10 second-half three-pointers and was playing with just seven healthy bodies down the stretch, allowing the Wildcats to embark on a 15-3 run that gave them all the breathing room they would need.
The Gauchos opened 2005-06 receiving votes in both the ESPN/USA Today Top-25 Coaches' Poll and Associated Press Writers' Poll, but have subsequently dropped out of both. Meanwhile, 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 Santa Barbara to repeat yet again, while nine of 10 media members in attendance did the same. Long Beach State was tabbed second in both polls.
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 380-169 (.692) and an overall mark of 478-283 (.628). 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 Averaging 12.0 points over the last three games #33 Jenna Green So. C Team-leading 15.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Equaled career-high of eight rebounds at BYU #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Recorded her first career double-double at Weber State #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Was 3-for-7 with seven points and four assists Monday
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Averaging 16 minutes per game in reserve duty #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Played 18 minutes off the bench at Weber State #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Shooting a team-high 40.6% from behind the arc #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Missed last two games with head injury; probable vs. SMC #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Three-pointer at Weber State was first basket as a Gaucho #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C Tallied first block of the year against Weber State
Santa Barbara's 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.
One positive the Gauchos brought back from the Thanksgiving weekend roadtrip was the ability to limit their turnovers. At BYU, UCSB coughed the ball up 18 times, compared to 21 miscues by the Cougars. Santa Barbara really took care of the ball at Weber State, only turning it over nine times, while the Wildcats tallied 18. Monday's contest marked the first time the Gauchos turnover total was in single digits this season. No individual UCSB player committed more than four turnovers in either contest. UCSB has now won the turnover battle all five games this season.
After ranking seventh nationally with a +7.2 average rebounding margin a season ago, perhaps the most surprising statistic from last weekend was how Santa Barbara got beaten on the glass. Both the Cougars and Wildcats won the battle of the boards, +15 and +6, respectively. So far this season, UCSB has a -14.0 average rebounding margin, and has lost the battle of the boards in all five of their games this year. As a comparison, in 2004-05 UCSB was only out-rebounded five times, and never by more than four boards.
And the Ugly...
Maybe it was the chilly temperatures in Utah, but Gaucho shooters were generally ice-cold at BYU and WSU. The 10-time defending Big West champs shot a collective 31.7% (40-of-126) during their last two games, with their only respectable half of basketball being a 42.4% (14-33) clip during the opening period at Weber State. UCSB's field goal production was even more forgettable from beyond the arc as it made just 3-of-36 (8.3%) three-point attempts in the pair of road contests. In fact, during one stretch that spanned from the end of the Richmond game on Nov. 23 to the first half of the matchup with WSU on Nov. 28, Santa Barbara missed 20 consecutive trifectas, including 0-of-13 at BYU. Take junior guard Erin O'Bryan out of the equation, and the rest of the Gauchos have made just seven-of-73 "trey" attempts - just under 10% - on the year.
Scouting the Gaels
After winning two games at home during the Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic Saint Mary's traveled to UC Riverside where it fell 71-61 on Thursday. Junior forward Eghosa Obaiza is the Gaels' leading scorer and rebounder at 12.0 ppg and 5.2 rpg, while freshman guard Jontelle Smith has been impressive, averaging 11.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest. UCSB leads the overall series with SMC 5-2 and has won the two previous meetings between the two schools. Santa Barbara defeated Saint Mary's, 74-57 in last season's opener in Moraga, Calif., led by Kristen Mann's 19 points. The Gaels' last series win came in January of 2001.
After seeing UCSB players miss a collective 121 games last season, the dreaded, mythical injury bug has already struck again in 2005-06. Sophomore guard Ana Onaindia did not make the trip to Utah after suffering a mild head injury against Richmond, while junior guard Erin O'Bryan suffered the same ailment when she took a charge at BYU and missed Monday's contest. Onaindia - who has already missed three games this season after being sidelined for all but six games as a rookie due to injury - and O'Bryan are both expected back for Sunday's matchup with Saint Mary's. In addition, freshman forward Shantel Thomas has missed a pair of contests due to back pain, and UCSB was down to just a seven-player rotation in the final minutes at Weber State after Jenna Green had difficulty breathing.
Nichols and Dimes
Senior forward Autumn Nichols got into the spirit on the recent holiday road trip and was a major contributor for the Gauchos in the paint. After averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in her first season of eligibility in 2004-05, she scored ten points, pulled in six rebounds, dished out two assists and blocked a shot at BYU. She then followed that performance with a season-high 17 points on 7-8 shooting against Weber State, adding two rebounds, two steals and an assist. Five games into the season, the Bakersfield, Calif. native is third on the team averaging 8.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. She ranks second with a field goal percentage of .486 and her 2.0 assists and 1.0 blocks per contest are also second on the squad.
The tallest Gaucho player was also the team's most productive at Brigham Young and Weber State, and has showed little lingering effects of the torn left MCL that sidelined her early last season. Jenna Green racked up 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting at BYU, and added three rebounds and a blocked shot. Two days later, she made seven of her 12 field goal attempts for 14 points at Weber State despite being limited to just 19 minutes due to foul trouble and breathing difficulties. The San Jose, Calif. native has reached double-digit scoring totals in each game this year, leading the team with averages of 15.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 1.4 bpg that show why the sophomore center was a choice for the Preseason All-Big West Team. Through five contests Green is shooting a team-high 59.6% (34-of-57), even better than the 53.3% clip she posted en route to Big West All-Freshman Team in 2003-04.
She Dropped the Bomb on Me
After making 18-of-35 three-pointers to close last season, junior guard Erin O'Bryan is launching long bombs at an alarming rate in 2005-06, and fortunately for Gaucho fans they are still going in with tremendous regularity. Prior to suffering an injury that would limit her shooting at BYU (0-4) and keep her out of the WSU contest, the Gilbert, Ariz., native made half of her six shots from beyond the arc, and scored a total of eleven points November 23 against Richmond. November 20 at Louisville, O'Bryan needed only 10 shots from downtown to drain a career-high-tying six trifectas, accounting for all of her 18 points which also equaled a personal best. Through five games, all but six of her 38 shots and six of her 45 points have come from three-point land. Four of O'Bryan's remaining points were scored at the charity stripe, where she has a streak of 13 straight made free-throws dating back to last season.
Bonds Breaks Out
After struggling through the first four games of the season, senior guard Karena Bonds had a breakout performance against Weber State on Monday. Bonds, who had been shooting a woeful 18.5 (five-for-27) prior to the clash with the Wildcats, knocked down four of her ten shots (40%), en route to a season-high 12 points. She grabbed a career-high ten rebounds, securing her first career double-double, and added a season-high four steals, one assist and one block. All of those steals Monday and all but two of her points came after halftime. The Morro Bay, Calif. native has started all five games for the Gauchos and leads the team averaging 29.4 minutes per contest. She is also one of UCSB's best free-throw shooters at 85.7%. Through five games, Bonds is averaging 6.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and a team-high 2.8 assists and 2.6 steals.
Waiting in the Wings
On Wednesday, Nov. 9, UCSB announced the signing of two high school seniors to National Letters of Intent. Jordan Franey, a 6-0 forward from La Mesa, Calif., and Sacramento native Meagan Williams, a 5-10 guard, will join the Gauchos as true freshmen in 2006-07. Both were named to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Junior First Team last season, with Williams also earning Sacramento Bee 2005 Player of the Year acclaim. She will enter her senior year at Sheldon High School as a Street & Smith's honorable mention All-American. Meanwhile Franey garnered San Diego Union Tribune First Team All-County honors in 2004-05, averaging 21.2 points per game at Santana High School in Santee, Calif. In 2006-07 Santa Barbara will also gain the services of 6-1 junior forward Emily Niemann, a transfer from Baylor where she scored 19 points in the 2005 NCAA Championship game to help the Lady Bears win their first-ever national title. In her two-year BU career, the Houston, Texas native averaged 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and a school-record 45.1% three-point percentage.
Sorry to See Ya Go
The Gauchos lost six letterwinners from 2004-05, including a trio of senior starters who each earned multiple postseason honors during their careers. Perhaps the biggest shoes to fill were those worn by forward Kristen Mann, a two-time AP honorable mention All-American who became a first round draft pick of the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx. Her 19.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game last year both ranked among the top-31 players nationally, while Mann finished third on UCSB's career charts with exactly 1,700 points. All in all, Santa Barbara lost 60% of its scoring (1,283 of 2,137 points) and 56% of its rebounding (699 of 1,252 boards) from a season ago.
Doozy of a Schedule
In the annual quest to make their non-conference schedule one of the toughest in the nation, the Gauchos have once again succeeded in 2005-06. UCSB will play five games against teams which also reached the NCAA Tournament last year, including three straight to open the regular season. In addition to facing national runner-up Michigan State, a February showdown looms at Elite Eight participant Stanford. In addition, Santa Barbara will host regional rivals UCLA and Pepperdine in the Thunderdome after not facing either school for more than a decade.
On the Horizon
The Gauchos will play their second of two straight games against West Coast Conference teams on Sunday, Nov. 11, traveling to Loyola Marymount for a 2:00 p.m. showdown with the Lions.
Taylor-James Leaves UCSB
On Monday, Nov. 14, head coach Mark French announced that 6'0" sophomore swing player Brittanie Taylor-James had left the Gaucho program due to personal reasons. The Evanston, Ill., native will remain at UCSB through the end of fall quarter and then seek a transfer. In 2004-05 she averaged 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 22 games played.