Gauchos Host Pac-10 Schools UCLA and Arizona in the Thunderdome
Dec. 14, 2005
Game 8 Saturday, Dec. 17, 2005 2:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. #24 UCLA The Thunderdome (6,000)
Game 9 Monday, Dec. 19, 2005 7:00 p.m. Santa Barbara, CA
UC Santa Barbara vs. Arizona The Thunderdome (6,000)
2005-06 Gaucho Record
1-6 overall/0-0 Big West Conference
1-1 home/0-5 away/0-0 neutral
Gauchos Begin Five-Game Homestand, Their Longest Since 1992-93
After playing five of its first seven contests on the road, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team begins a five-game homestand - its longest in 13 years - by hosting a pair of Pacific-10 Conference teams in the Thunderdome. On Saturday, Dec. 17, the Gauchos face their second nationally-ranked opponent of the young season when No. 24 UCLA (5-3 overall) comes to town for a 2:00 p.m. showdown. It will mark the first meeting between UCSB and the Bruins since Nov. 27, 1993. Two days later, Arizona (4-3 entering this week) invades the Thunderdome to battle Santa Barbara at 7:00 p.m. The Gauchos enter this homestand looking to avoid their worst start to a season since 1983-84, when they won just once in their first 22 games.
Gauchos on the Air and Web
Both upcoming games will air live on KTLK 1340AM in Santa Barbara with "Showtime" Steve Wendt handling play-by-play duties. Former UCSB assistant coach Kristen Koch will handle play-by-play for the UCLA contest, while "$1.98" Don Ford will do the same when the Gauchos battle Arizona. Broadcast begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". 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".
UCSB Falters Early and Loses 79-52 at Loyola Marymount
The Gauchos are still searching for their first victory this season away from Santa Barbara, with their most recent road setback being a 79-52 loss at Loyola Marymount (2-6) on Sunday, Dec. 11. UCSB scored the first five points of the game in Gersten Pavilion, but that would be its only lead of the afternoon. LMU quickly answered with a 15-0 run spanning the next six minutes, nine points of which came from sophomore guard Amanda DeCoud. Trailing 30-10 at the 8:21 mark, the Gauchos would fight back as Kat Suderman's free throws with 3:29 before intermission cut the Loyola Marymount lead to 34-22, but the home team went on a 9-2 spurt to end the first half and take a 43-24 cushion into the locker rooms. The visitors were then held scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half, and LMU never let its lead dip below 20 points en route to ending a five-game losing skid.
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 381-170 (.691) and an overall mark of 479-284 (.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 Had scored in double-digits three straight games until Sunday #33 Jenna Green So. C Big West Conference-leading 16.5 points per game #5 Jessica Wilson So. G Averaging 7.0 points, 2.5 steals over last two games #32 Karena Bonds Sr. G Team-leading +1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio (19 to 14) #40 LaShay Fears Fr. G Career-high 12 points, four assists vs. Saint Mary's
Reserves Notes #2 Whitney Warren Fr. G Averaging 15.3 minutes per game in reserve duty #10 Kim Smith Fr. G Scored second basket of career at Loyola Marymount #22 Erin O'Bryan Jr. G Tallied seven points at LMU in return from head injury #23 Ana Onaindia So. G Back in action Sunday after missing three games with head injury #35 Shantel Thomas Fr. F Season-high 15 minutes played during Sunday's loss #42 Kat Suderman So. F/C Hauled down six rebounds in each of last three games
UCLA's showdown with the Gauchos will be its first game following an eight-day break from competition, the last being a 93-56 win over Pepperdine at home on Dec. 8. Senior Lisa Willis and junior Noelle Quinn lead a high-powered Bruin offense at 19.4 and 18.4 points per game, respectively. In the last meeting between the two schools, UCSB fell 71-54 at UCLA on Nov. 27, 1991, while their last clash in Santa Barbara occurred way back on Dec. 7, 1985, a 78-51 decision in favor of the Bruins. UCLA leads the all-time series 13-1.
Scouting the Wildcats
Led by senior guard Natalie Jones' 17.9 points per game, Arizona will first travel to Fresno State on Saturday, Dec. 17 before heading south to the Thunderdome. The Wildcats and Gauchos are no strangers to one another, having met seven times in the past eight seasons. UofA scored a 96-80 home victory over UCSB on Dec. 16, 2004 that ended a two-game winning streak by the Gauchos. That triumph gave Arizona a 6-5 edge 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. UCSB has won its last 43 contests against current members of the Big West, postseason included.
Field Goal Frustrations
UCSB has yet to reach the 40% field goal percentage plateau in 2005-06, a streak that is actually eight games long including last season's NCAA Tournament loss. That has translated into a Big West-worst 33.5% shooting mark and an even more forgettable 19.3% clip from three-point territory. 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 12-of-99 (12.1%) "trey" attempts on the year.
With their shots refusing to fall, the Gauchos have had to ramp up their defesive intensity this season. After finishing 2004-05 with averages of 7.57 steals and 2.33 blocks per game that both ranked among the lower half of the Big West, UCSB has boosted those marks to 10.14 and 2.50 in the early season. Santa Barbara has already amassed double-dgit steals four times in 2005-06 after doing so on just eight occasions all of last year.
A solid indicator of UCSB's fortunes this season has been the battle of the boards. While opening their campaign with five straight losses, the Gauchos were out-rebounded each time, the first four by double-digit margins. Santa Barbara appeared to correct its problem by owning a commanding 53-31 edge on the glass while defeating Saint Mary's on Dec. 4, but was back to bad habits with a nine-board deficiency last Sunday at LMU. UCSB's -8.1 rebounding margin thus far is especially alarming considering the squad ranked seventh in the entire nation last season at +8.2.
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 115-139 edge on the season. Curiously, while coughing the ball up fewer times than any of the six teams that beat them, the Gauchos had an equal number of miscues (15) as Saint Mary's.
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 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 a 16.4 points per game average, while her 56.2% field goal mark currently ranks second and shows 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
After three straight impressive games in which she averaged 14.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 57.1% shooting - scoring in double-figures each time - senior forward Autumn Nichols came back to earth against Loyola Marymount with just five points, three boards and just a one-of-eight performance from the floor. Gaucho fans will hope that's not a return to her early season struggles when the Bakersfield, Calif., native posted 5.0 points and shot 35.3% over the first three contests of 2005-06. Nichols has obviously worked on her outside shot during the off-season, burying three-of-eight 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 seven games has been senior guard Karena Bonds, who owns steals (2.14) and assists (2.71) per game averages that rank fourth and eighth in the Big West, respectively as well as an 82.4% free-throw mark that is second best. She's also UCSB's fourth-leading scorer and rebounder, and can already boast two blocked shots 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 healthy players.
She Dropped the Bomb on Me
Erin O'Bryan has excelled in two areas early this season - shooting three-pointers and free-throws. The junior guard buried 13-of-28 trifectas to open the year - including a six-of-10 effort at Louisville to account for all of her career-high-tying 18 points - before suffering a head injury at BYU that sidelined her for the next two games. O'Bryan returned to action Sunday at LMU and sunk one-of-four tries from beyond the arc. Against the Lions she was also perfect on four attempts from the charity stripe, extending her streak of consecutive made free-throws to 17 dating back to last season. Through six games played, all two of her 52 points have come from three-point land or the free-throw line.
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 as of late, which translated into a personal best 12 point effort during the Gauchos' lone win of the season. She is also one of three UCSB players ranked among the Big West's top-10 in steals at 2.00 per outing.
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. In 2006-07 Santa Barbara will also gain the services of a pair of junior transfers who helped Baylor capture the 2005 national title. Emily Niemann, a 6-1 forward, scored 19 points in the NCAA Championship game against Michigan State en route to Final Four All-Tournament acclaim. In her two-year BU career, the Houston native averaged 9.9 points, 2.9 rebounds and a school-record 45.1% three-point percentage. Meanwhile 5-7 guard Chisa Ononiwu will begin practicing with the Gauchos in January and becomes eligible to compete following fall 2006 academic quarter at UCSB. The Houston native averaged 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds in 13 games as a Lady Bear freshman in 2004-05.
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 finished the fall academic quarter and is now seeking 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 will take a 10-day break from competition to celebrate the holiday season before continuing their homestand on Friday, Dec. 30, hosting Pepperdine in the Thunderdome at 7:00 p.m. It will be UCSB's final tune-up before beginning defense of its 10 consecutive Big West Conference regular season titles.