Dec. 8, 2005
Game 7 Sunday, Dec. 11, 2005 2:00 p.m. Los Angeles, CA
UC Santa Barbara at Loyola Marymount Gersten Pavilion (4,156)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
1-5 overall/0-0 Big West Conference
1-1 home/0-4 away/0-0 neutral
Gauchos Play at LMU for a Second Time in the 2005 Calendar Year
Fresh off its first win of the season and a week-long break to take final exams, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team gets back to the business of playing hoops on Sunday, Dec. 11 at Loyola Marymount (1-6 overall). The Gauchos' second straight contest against a member of the West Coast Conference begins at 2:00 p.m. in Gersten Pavilion. Playing its fifth road game within the first seven to open 2005-06, UCSB is still searching for its first victory of the year outside of Santa Barbara. The Gauchos will also look to avenge a heartbreaking 59-58 loss to the Lions in Los Angeles on Jan. 2, 2005.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
The UCSB-LMU clash will air live on KTLK 1340AM in Santa Barbara with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties and "$1.98" Don Ford providing color commentary. The broadcast 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". The aforementioned website will also feature real-time "Gametracker" scoring, while a live video feed of Sunday's action in Gersten Pavilion is available via a subscription service at www.lmulions.com.
Wilson's Three-Pointer Lifts UCSB to 67-58 Win Over Saint Mary's
Jessica Wilson's three-pointer with 1:14 to play on Sunday, Dec. 4 broke open a 58-58 tie and was all the scoring the Gauchos needed to secure their first victory of the 2005-06 season, a 67-58 triumph over Saint Mary's in the Thunderdome. UCSB played excelled defense throughout the second half, opening on an 11-3 run capped by Autumn Nichols' layup with 11:13 mark that knotted the score at 45-45. However the Gaels regrouped to pull ahead by four points on several occasions, and then led 58-56 at the 3:06 mark when freshman guard Jontelle Smith buried a short jumper. On the next trip down the court, Santa Barbara rookie LaShay Fears was fouled while driving the basket and calmly sunk two free-throws to even the score. The two teams traded missed opportunities until Gaucho senior guard Karena Bonds penetrated and found Wilson all alone on the left wing for what would eventually be the game-winning basket. Saint Mary's (2-4) could not get its shots to fall down the stretch, and UCSB buried all six of its free-throws in the final minute - four by sophomore center Jenna Green - to ensure victory. The Gaels' 16 points following intermission equaled the third-fewest points ever surrendered by Santa Barbara in a second half.
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 381-169 (.693) and an overall mark of 479-283 (.629). 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 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds over last three games #33 Jenna Green So. C Big West-leading 16.5 points per game, 59.2% shooting #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Equaled career-high of eight rebounds at BYU #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Team-leading +1.5 assist-to-turnover ratio (18 to 12) #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Career-high 12 points, four assists vs. Saint Mary's
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Averaging 14.8 minutes per game in reserve duty #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Played double-digit minutes in each of last two games #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Missed last two games with head injury; probable vs. LMU #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Missed last three games with head injury; probable vs. LMU #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Three-pointer at Weber State was first basket as a Gaucho #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C 5.0 rebounds per game are third-most on the team
Like UCSB, Loyola Marymount has struggled in the early season against a tough schedule, most recently falling 59-53 at home to 24th-ranked USC on Tuesday night for its fifth-straight loss. The Gauchos and Lions have one common opponent - Weber State - which beat both UCSB (72-63) and LMU (65-55) on its home court. Senior guards and twin sisters Bianca and Rachael Ziemann lead the Loyola Marymount attack at 10.7 and 10.0 points per game, respectively. Rachael Ziemann scored 10 points in last season's game against Santa Barbara in which Mary Turner buried a jumper with 4.5 seconds to play to give LMU a 59-58 victory on its home floor. The Gauchos had won the six previous meetings between the two schools and owns an 8-2 lead in the all-time series.
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.
While winning their first game of the season vs. Saint Mary's, the Gauchos hopefully corrected a problem that plagued them throughout the first five contests of 2005-06. After being out-rebounded by double-digits in each of its five defeats, UCSB made amends by owning a commanding 53-31 advantage on the glass over the Gaels. Santa Barbara had been particularly badly beaten on the offensive boards - not grabbing more than 14 in any previous contest - but exploded for 29 last Sunday.
One area the Gauchos' have shown consistency in this year is taking care of the basketball...relatively speaking. UCSB has not committed more turnovers than any of first six opponents and owns a cumulative 96-118 edge on the season. Curiously, after coughing the ball up fewer times than any of the five teams that beat them, the Gauchos then had an equal number of miscues (15) as Saint Mary's.
Field Goal Frustrations
Despite Sunday's gratifying win, Santa Barbara shooters remained ice-cold, as the 10-time defending Big West champs failed to record even a 40% field goal mark for the sixth straight game. The Gauchos' efficiency has been even more forgettable from beyond the arc as they are sinking a league-worst 18.0% of their shots from beyond the arc. In fact, during one stretch that spanned from the end of the Richmond game on Nov. 23 to the first half of the match-up 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 nine-of-90 "trey" attempts - exactly 10% - on the year.
After seeing UCSB players miss a collective 121 games last season, the dreaded, mythical injury bug has already struck again in 2005-06. Sophomore Ana Onaindia - who was limited to just six games in 2004-05 due to health reasons - suffered a mild head injury against Richmond and has not played since, while junior Erin O'Bryan suffered the same ailment when she took a charge at BYU and has missed the past two games. Both shooting guards are expected back in uniform Sunday at Loyola Marymount. 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 when Jenna Green had difficulty breathing.
The tallest Gaucho player has also been the team's most productive in 2005-06, and is showing little lingering effects of the torn left MCL that sidelined her for nearly all of last season. Sophomore center Jenna Green shattered virtually all of her previous career highs in the win over Saint Mary's, including new personal bests of 23 points and 12 rebounds while spearheading the victory. Those totals also accounted for her first career double-double. The San Jose, Calif., native has recorded double-digit scoring totals in each game this year and currently leads the Big West with both her 15.2 points per game average and 59.2% field goal mark that show why she was included on the preseason all-conference team. Green is the only Gaucho currently shooting over 50%, and is connecting at an even better rate than the 53.3% clip she posted en route to earning Big West All-Freshman honors in 2003-04.
Nichols and Dimes
Similar to 2004-05, Autumn Nichols rebounded from a slow start with a string of solid performances. After shooting just 35.3% (six-of-17) while averaging 5.0 points over the season's first three contests, the senior forward has upped those marks to 57.1% (16-of-28) and 14.0 during her three most recent outings, scoring in double-figures each time. The Bakersfield, Calif., native can also boast a 5.7 rebounds per game average that is second only to Green (6.7) among all Gauchos. Nichols' learning curve has been a bit quicker than last year, when she posted just 1.6 points, 2.4 boards and a 27.8% shooting percentage over the first nine contests before exploding for averages of 9.9, 5.2 and 58.5% during the final 21 contests. She obviously worked on her outside shot during the off-season, burying three-of-seven three-point attempts so far in 2005-06 after misfiring on her only shot from beyond the arc last year.
Bonds, Karena Bonds
The Gauchos' jack-of-all-trades through six games has been senior guard Karena Bonds, who owns assists (3.00) and steals (2.33) per game averages that both rank fifth in the Big West as well as a league-best 87.5% free-throw mark. She's also UCSB's fourth-leading scorer and rebounder, and can boast a blocked shot in each of the past two contests after not recording a single stuff in any of her first 93 games as a collegian. The Morro Bay, Calif., native played a spirited game at Weber State, recording 12 points and a personal best 10 rebounds for her first career double-double. All but two of Bonds' points and all of her game-high four steals came after halftime when Santa Barbara was down to just seven players.
She Dropped the Bomb on Me
When Erin O'Bryan went down after taking a charge at BYU on Nov. 28, so did the Gauchos' three-point shooting prowess. The junior guard entered that contest having made 13-of-28 (46.4%) trifectas on the year but missed four of them before suffering her aforementioned head injury. She then watched her teammates connect on just five-of-40 (12.5%) "treys" over the two ensuing games while watching from the sidelines in street clothes. 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. She is expected back in the rotation Sunday at Loyola Marymount.
UCSB has a tradition of great point guards, and may have found the next player in that long lineage in the form of freshman LaShay Fears. She has started each game thus far, including the season opener at 2005 NCAA runner-up Michigan State where she did not commit a turnover in 24 minutes of work. The Palmdale, Calif., native has gotten the green light to shoot more a of late, which has translated into an average of 9.5 points over the last two games. In addition, she has buried her last eight attempts from the charity stripe, including a six-of-six effort in last Sunday's win over Saint Mary's.
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.
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, with a career-high of eight scored against UC Irvine on March 3.
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 begin a five-game homestand - their longest since 1992-93 - when UCLA comes to town for a 2:00 p.m. showdown on Saturday, Dec. 17. UCSB has not faced the Bruins in over 12 years.