UCSB Opens Big West Play On the Road at UC Riverside, Cal State Fullerton This Week
Dec. 26, 2006
Game No. 12
Thursday, December 28, 2006 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at UC Riverside Highlanders
Student Recreation Center (3,168)
Game No. 13
Saturday, December 30, 2006 at 2:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Cal State Fullerton Titans
Titan Gym (4,000)
Returning to the court after a week-long break over the Holidays, the UC Santa Barbara women's basketball team will begin its quest for a 12th-consecutive Big West Conference regular season championship when league play starts Thursday, Dec. 28 at UC Riverside. The Gauchos will be looking to avenge last season's 59-58 loss to the Highlanders in the Big West Tournament title game. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Following the contest with the league leaders, UCSB will travel to Cal State Fullerton to take on the third place Titans Saturday, Dec. 30 at 2:00 p.m. The Gauchos dropped two of three meetings with Riverside a year ago and swept the season series with Fullerton.
The Gaucho Record
UCSB enters Big West Conference play with an overall record of 4-7 after falling 69-45 at the hands of 20th-ranked Michigan State Dec. 20 in the Thunderdome. Since suffering the program's worst loss in 20 years at top-ranked Maryland Dec. 2, a fifth consecutive defeat, the Gauchos have turned things around, winning three of their last five. They posted a 51-49 win at Richmond Dec. 4, a 62-57 home victory over Weber State Dec. 7, and a 78-67 come-from-behind win at Pepperdine Dec. 18. In addition to the setback against the Spartans before the break, UCSB dropped a 63-58 home decision to Loyola Marymount Dec. 9. Sporting a 2-2 record on the road this season following last Monday's win over the Waves, UCSB fell to just 2-5 in the T-Dome in 2006-07 after posting a 10-3 home record a year ago.
UCSB on the Air & Web
Both contests against the Highlanders and the Titans, along with every other UCSB women's basketball game in 2006-07 will be broadcast live on KIST 1340 AM in Santa Barbara. Steve Wendt is back for his third season as the play-by-play voice of the Gauchos alongside former Los Angeles Laker and UCSB star Don Ford, who will provide most of the color commentary. Broadcasts begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off with the "Gaucho Pregame Show". Fans can also catch all games live via the internet by going to www.ucsbgauchos.com and purchasing the "UCSB All-Access Pass". With this option hoops fans can enjoy live audio and video from the comfort of their homes courtesy of CSTV.
Gauchos Can't Keep Up with Michigan State in Second Half of 69-45 Defeat
Leading 27-26 at halftime, UCSB fell victim to a 24-6 run to open the second period by 20th-Ranked Michigan State and the Spartans went on to hand the Gauchos their third loss against a ranked opponent this season, 69-45 in the Thunderdome Dec. 20. Alyssa DeHann scored a game-high 17 points and blocked eight shots for MSU, while Jenna Green led Santa Barbara with 13 points, making 5-of-14 attempts from the floor. Freshman forward Jordan Franey tallied 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting from behind the three-point arc and sophomore point guard LaShay Fears scored just two points and committed eight turnovers but did tie a season-high with six assists. After the visitors took a 16-10 lead at the 6:42 mark of the first half on a lay-up from DeHann, junior guard Jessica Wilson connected from downtown, Green converted on a three-point play after being fouled on a lay-up, and Franey drained the first of her three three-point hits of the evening to cap off a 9-2 run and give the Gauchos their first lead at 19-18. UCSB went into the locker room leading 27-26. It was a completely different story in the second half as Michigan State scored the first eight points and used that crushing run over the first seven minutes to open up a 50-33 advantage with 12:07 left to play. The Spartans came out in a full court press and forced six turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the period. Santa Barbara countered with a 6-2 spurt after three-pointers from Franey and freshman guard Meagan Williams to pull within 11 at 52-41, but the MSU held a double-digit advantage for the remainder of the game and ultimately took its largest lead of 24 at the final horn. UCSB shot 26.7% in the second half, making just 8-of-30 shots, and finished shooting a season-low 30% for the game. Michigan State shot 51.6% after halftime, making 16-of-21 attempts and shot 45.2% overall. The Gauchos were out-rebounded for the seventh time this season, 51-31 and the Spartans secured 21 offensive boards, leading to a 16-7 advantage in second chance points.
Mark French returned to his alma mater at the start of the 1987-88 season and women's basketball at UC Santa Barbara has never been the same. Now in his 20th season as head coach of the Gauchos, French has had an immensely successful career, posting a record of 400-185 (.684) while at UCSB and an overall mark of 498-299 (.625). Since the 1991-92 campaign, a period spanning 15 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 two 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. French is just two wins from his 500th career victory and collected his 400th win with UCSB's 78-67 defeat of Pepperdine Dec. 18.
Probable Starters - Notes
G - LaShay Fears - Tied a season-high with six assists in loss against Michigan State Dec. 20.
G - Whitney Warren - Second on the team averaging 5.4 rebounds per game.
G - Jessica Wilson - Team leader dishing out 3.4 assists per game, second in scoring at 13.3 ppg.
F - Jordan Franey - Scored second-highest total as a Gaucho last Wednesday against Spartans.
C - Jenna Green - Tallied double figures in all 11 games, leads squad averaging 16.6 points per game.
Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Chisa Ononiwu - Shot just 1-for-10 against MSU after stellar debut at Pepperdine.
G - Meagan Williams - Made one of her two three-point attempts in last week's loss to Spartans.
G - Sha'Rae Gibbons - Has played a total of six minutes and taken no shots in the last two games.
G - Kim Smith - Has played 29 minutes this season and has yet to attempt a field goal.
G/F - Ariana Gnekow - Averaged three points in last two after scoring career-high 11 against LMU.
F - Ashley Hall - Appeared in six games this season, averaging two minutes per contest.
C - Jessie Goble - Second on the team with three blocked shots this season.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
With the majority of one of the most challenging non-conference schedules in the Division I ranks behind them -- UCSB will host Utah Valley State Jan. 11 and Pac-10 Power Stanford Feb. 1 -- the Gauchos welcome the start of Big West play this week. Santa Barbara owns one of the nation's longest current streaks of conference championships after winning their 11th-consecutive regular season title in 2005-06 and Coach French's Gauchos have posted a 159-13 record (.924) since their unprecedented run of titles started in 1996. Last season UCSB went 10-4 in BWC play after finishing just 6-10 against non-league competition and shared the regular season title with Long Beach State. The Gauchos then had their streak of nine straight Big West tournament titles snapped with the narrow one-point loss to UC Riverside in the title game.
Scouting the Highlanders
UCSB opens Big West play this week at UC Riverside in what is becoming one of the conference's top rivalries. Thursday night's showdown with the league-leading Highlanders will mark the 23rd meeting between the two programs. The Gauchos lead the all-time series 14-8, but UCR has taken two of the last three. UCSB defeated the Highlanders 73-48 Jan. 2 in last season's conference-opener in Santa Barbara, but fell in Riverside, 48-45. The Highlanders then edged the Gauchos 59-58 in last year's conference tournament title game.
UCR enters conference play with a 6-6 record after falling to BYU 66-57 Dec. 20 in their last game before the Holidays. Prior to that, the Highlanders posted victories over Drake and Utah Valley State. Through 12 games, Riverside has been outscored by its opponents by an average of 61.3 to 58.7 and has been out-rebounded by the opposition by a 37.6 to 33.2 margin. UCR shoots 39.7% from the field, while their opposition has shot 40.2%. Junior forward Kemie Nkele is fourth in the Big West and leads the team averaging 15.5 points per game to go with a team-high 7.2 rebounds, 26 blocks, and 16 steals. Sophomore guard Seywam Gbewonyo is second averaging 9.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Fellow second year forward Roney Friend is also scoring 9.3 points, along with 4.7 boards, 13 blocks and 13 steals.
UCSB's most consistent offensive weapon last season, junior center Jenna Green has been getting it done in the post all season. After establishing career highs with averages of 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocked shots per game in 2005-06, Green enters competition this week leading the Gauchos averaging 16.3 points and 7.9 rebounds. She has also recorded a team-high 14 blocked shots. Green has led the team in scoring in six of the last seven games and is the only player on the roster who has scored in double-figures in all 11 games this season. The San Jose, Calif. native also leads UCSB in shooting at 54.5% and has made at least half of her shots in all but two games in 2006-07. As far as Big West statistics go, Green ranks first in the conference in field goal percentage, second in both scoring and blocks, sixth in rebounding, and ninth in minutes played. Green has scored a season-high 21 points on three occasions this season, with the first coming Nov. 26 against North Carolina State, two days after finishing with 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds in the Gauchos' loss to No. 24 Louisville. She tallied 21 again Dec. 9 against Loyola Marymount and also pulled down 10 rebounds for her third double-double of the season, blocked two shots and recorded three steals. Most recently, Green scored a game-high 21 points yet again, with seven rebounds, two blocks, and two steals to lead the Gaucho comeback against Pepperdine Dec. 18. She led UCSB with 13 points and nine rebounds in last week's loss to 20th-ranked Michigan State.
One of the Gauchos' other two active upper classmen in 2006-07 is junior guard Jessica Wilson. Wilson, who is the squad's all-around best athlete, has been absolutely brilliant at times this season and must continue to produce if UCSB wants to bring home a 12th Big West Conference trophy. The Sacramento, Calif. native is second on the squad averaging 13.3 points and 1.7 steals per game and leads the team dishing out 3.4 assists per contest. Wilson is third on the team in rebounding at 5.1 per game. She has also made 9-of-26 three-point shots (34.6%), which is good enough for second on the squad. After scoring a career-high 30 points in the season-opener against Portland State and then tallying 28 on Nov. 17 against Oregon, Wilson has had her struggles since, averaging just nine points per game in her last seven. She had a great shooting night at Pepperdine Dec. 18, making five of her seven shots from the floor for 13 points and also tallied seven rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes. Her defense was critical in the Gauchos' come-from-behind 78-67 win over the Waves. Wilson struggled from the floor in Santa Barbara's last game, the 69-45 loss to Michigan State, finishing 3-for-10 from the field for seven points with four rebounds.
Making a Name For Herself
One of the main benefactors of the Gauchos' youth and lack of depth this season has been freshman forward Jordan Franey. She has started all 11 games is averaging 9.0 points and 4.2 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game. The San Diego native has also proven to be one of UCSB's biggest three-point shooting threats, leading the team with 17 treys and 53 attempts. Franey had a break-out performance in the Gauchos' 62-57 win over Weber State Dec. 7, when she led all scorers and finished with a career-best 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-6 from three-point territory. She also hauled in a career-best 12 rebounds to record her first-career double-double as a Gaucho. The 22 points scored were the most by a freshman since Kristen Mann exploded for 27 at Pacific during her rookie campaign in 2001-02. Franey made three of her six attempts from behind the arc in last week's loss to 20th-ranked Michigan State and finished with 12 points, the sixth time she has scored in double figures this season.
Sophomore point guard LaShay Fears enters this week's contests at UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton averaging 8.2 points per game, the fourth highest total on the squad, and is second in three-point baskets with 12. She leads the team and is second in the Big West averaging 35.6 minutes per game in 2006-07 and, along with Jenna Green, is one of just two Gauchos to have played 30 or more minutes in all 11 games. Fears had her best performance this month Dec. 18 at Pepperdine, finishing 4-for-10 for 16 points with a game-high five assists and three steals. The Palmdale, Calif. native has scored in double-figures on two other occasions this season, tallying a season-high 19 points on Nov. 17 against Oregon and turning in 15 in the season-opener against Portland State. She struggled in UCSB's last contest, making just 1-of-5 shots for two points and turned the ball over eight times. She did tie a season-high with six assists, however, and two steals.
The Warren Court
Sophomore guard Whitney Warren has started the last eight games and is averaging 7.6 points per contest. She is second on the squad grabbing 5.4 rebounds per game and in field goal percentage making 39.8% (33-83) of her attempts, and third in minutes played at 31.3. Warren scored a career-high 18 points and added nine rebounds, equaling her second-highest total ever in the Nov. 24 loss to No. 24 Louisville. Two days later, she came back with another solid effort, recording 13 points and six rebounds. The 13 points were her second-highest total as a Gaucho and it marked the first time in her career that she had scored in double-figures in back-to-back games. Warren just missed a double-double, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds in the Dec. 18 win over Pepperdine, but scored just four points on 2-for-6 shooting with three rebounds in the loss to the Spartans before the break.
Her Time Has Come
Since transferring to UCSB from Baylor University last January, junior guard Chisa Ononiwu has had to sit on the sidelines and watch, waiting to become eligible to play. Her time finally came against Pepperdine and the native of Houston, Tex made an immediate impact off the bench, finishing with 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals in 29 minutes in her Gaucho debut. Things didn't go as smoothly for Ononiwu in her first game in the Thunderdome, as she made just 1-of-10 shots for two points with five rebounds, two steals, and one assist, but it is early and she is sure to leave her mark this season.
UCSB Lands Three Prized Recruits
On Wednesday, November 8, UCSB announced the signing of three high school seniors to National Letters of Intent during this year's early signing period. Ashlee Brown, a 6'0" forward from Good Year, Ariz., a 5'11" guard Courtney Collishaw of Visalia, Calif., and Margaret Johnson, a 5'11" forward from Lake Oswego, Ore. will join the Gauchos next season as true freshmen. Brown was named to the 2005-06 Arizona Tribune First Team and garnered First Team All-Fiesta Region accolades after averaging 21 points, 16 rebounds, five steals, four assists, and three blocked shots per game as a junior at Chandler High School. Collishaw signs with UCSB after earning Cal-Hi Sports All-State Junior Second Team honors at Redwood High School. She was named to the CIF Central Section First Team after scoring 22.6 points per game a year ago. Johnson enters her final season at Lake Oswego High School having guided the team to a second place league finish in 2006 at 10-4 and an 18-8 overall record. In 2007-08 Santa Barbara will also gain the services of 5'10" guard Lauren Pedersen, a junior transfer from UCLA. A native of Brea, Calif., she played two seasons with the Bruins, averaging 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in 54 career games while making 11 starts during that span. Pedersen will have two years of eligibility at UCSB starting next season.
Gauchos Look To Start Streaking
2005-06 was a very disappointing year by UCSB standards. Finishing just 16-14 last season and losing in the WNIT First Round, Coach French and the Gauchos had a number of streaks broken that they will be looking to reestablish this year. UCSB saw its streak of nine consecutive Big West Tournament titles come to a crashing halt after a narrow loss to UC Riverside in the title game. That being said, Santa Barbara did not receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and its string of nine-straight trips to the Big Dance was also severed. With a total of 16 victories, UCSB saw its span of 10 seasons with at least 20 wins broken, as well. Finally, although the Gauchos did win the Big West regular season title, they shared the honor with Long Beach State, which snapped their streak of 10-straight outright conference championships--a run that was the longest in the nation. Needless to say, UCSB will aim to start a new set of streaks in 2006-07.
O'Bryan, Thomas Leave UCSB
On October 17, head coach Mark French announced that two key players would not be with the Gauchos in 2006-07. Guard Erin O'Bryan and forward Shantel Thomas both left the program citing personal reasons. O'Bryan, who appeared in 27 games for UCSB last season, averaging 6.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, will not be back for her senior season. Thomas, on the other hand, is expected to return at some point, provided she maintains her eligibility. The Sacramento, Calif. native appeared in 25 games as a true freshman in 2005-06, averaging 2.5 ppg and 2.6 rpg in 11.2 minutes per contest.
Less than a month later, the coaching staff was dealt more bad news when the decision was made that Kat Suderman will redshirt in 2006-07. The San Luis Obispo, Calif. native will be inactive this season as she rehabilitates from a knee surgery she had last spring. Suderman was one of only two players to appear in all 30 games last season, starting eight games for UCSB. She posted career-highs averaging 6.2 points and 6.1 rebounds in 21.2 minutes per game. Over the past two seasons, Suderman has appeared in a combined 56 games, more than any other Gaucho over that span.
Following the first week of Big West competition, the Gauchos will return home for a season-long three-game homestand, starting with defending co-champion Long Beach State Jan. 4 at 7:00 p.m. UCSB will then take on UC Irvine two days later at 2:00 p.m. before welcoming Utah Valley State to the Thunderdome Jan. 11.