Monday Madness For Women's Basketball
Now that finals are over for all nine Big West Conference members, competition is plenty in the week leading up to the holiday break. Seven of the schools take to the court Monday evening. Long Beach State closes out its home tournament - Beach Classic Presented by Residence Inn/Courtyard Marriott- at 5:00 p.m. when it entertains Wichita State at The Walter Pyramid. Also wrapping up a two-day tournament is UC Davis, who faces Portland State in the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Shootout in Honolulu, Hawaii, at 8:00 p.m.
Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara are all on the road for Monday's showdown. The Mustangs stay in-state to tackle Loyola Marymount, while the Matadors visits Oregon and the Anteaters travel to the Rocky Mountains to take on Northern Colorado Monday night and Wyoming Wednesday. The Gauchos trek to the Land of Enchantment to tackle the New Mexico Lobos.
Looking to get back in the win column, the Tigers of Pacific welcome Eastern Washington to the Alex G. Spanos Center at 7:00 p.m.
Following this week of nonconference action, the 2011-12 Big West Conference season gets underway. The excitement begins Thursday, Dec. 29 with Cal State Northridge hosting UC Irvine, Pacific entertaining Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State welcoming UC Riverside to The Walter Pyramid, where it is undefeated this season.
The New And Improved Matadors
Under the helm of second-year coach Jason Flowers, Cal State Northridge women's basketball seems to be turning things around. After 10 games played, Cal State Northridge owns a 5-5 overall record for a .500 winning percentage. This is already a vast improvement on last year's squad that tallied just four wins all season. Not only are the Matadors picking up wins, they are doing so in dominating fashion. In their most recent victory against San Jose State back on Dec. 7, Cal State Northridge pulled down 60 rebounds in the contest, the second-most in school history and the most ever against a Division-I opponent. The 30-point win was CSUN's largest margin of victory since a 90-54 win over Nicholls State on Nov. 25, 2000.
This week the Matadors head to the Pacific Northwest to battle Oregon Monday night and Portland Wednesday. Both contests are slated for a 7:00 p.m. tip.
Once again, UC Santa Barbara is showcasing its stellar defense as it allowed Pepperdine to score just 44 points in the Gauchos' 54-44 win last week. The stingy Gauchos lowered their scoring defense average to 49.7 points per game, which ranks first in the Big West and among the top 10 in the nation. Over the past six contests, UCSB has not allowed any of its opponents to reach the 50-point plateau, a first in school history.
This week's lineup may prove a bit more difficult for the Gauchos to keep their impressive streak alive. UC Santa Barbara faces New Mexico, who averages 54 points per game, on Monday but then battles UTEP on Wednesday. The Miners are averaging 72 points a contest.
Titans' Skid Comes To An End
On Dec. 10, Cal State Fullerton snapped a five-game losing streak with a 76-74 win over Nevada at Titan Gym. The Titans' victory over the Wolfpack was just the second in the last 12 meetings. Leading a trio of players who scored in double figures, senior Megan Richardson tallied a game-high 26 points with a 8-of-14 performance from the field and a perfect 9-of-9 from the charity stripe.
After taking a week off due to finals, the Titans are back in action Tuesday when it visits San Francisco and then San Jose State on Thursday.
Home Sweet Home
With the first month of the 2011-12 season completed, two Big West members still own an unblemished home record. The Aggies are 4-0 at The Pavilion, but are currently in the midst of a four-game road trip. UC Davis' next home game is slated for Dec. 31 when it kicks off the conference portion of its schedule at The Pavilion with Cal State Fullerton.
Long Beach State, who had the luxury of kicking off the 2011-12 season with a victory in The Walter Pyramid, improved to 4-0 at home last week after defeating Dartmouth, 66-52 and then later downing Western Michigan, 76-75, as part of the Beach Classic Presented by Residence Inn/Courtyard Marriott. Next up for the 49ers, who are in the midst of a six-game homestand, is game two of the Beach Classic against Wichita State Monday evening.
In 2010-11, UC Davis was 12-3 at home and Long beach State posted a 6-7 mark.
Despite battling an injury, Cal Poly's Kristina Santiago continues to dominate on both sides of the court. The redshirt senior paces the conference in both scoring and rebounding. Her double-double average consists of 20.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per contests ranking her in the nation's top 15 in both categories.
Mustangs Tabbed To Repeat As Regular Season Champion
Cal Poly was selected to repeat as the Big West womens basketball regular season champion for the 2011-12 season, as voted on by the media in the Big West women's basketball preseason poll. The Mustangs collected 11 of the possible 24 first-place votes and 200 total points.
The second-place Gauchos return much of their team including All-Big West First Team pick Emilie Johnson, Honorable Mention selection Sweets Underwood and All-Freshman Team choice Nicole Nesbit. Leading the charge for third-place UC Davis is a trio of returning starters - Hana Asano, Samantha Meggison and Kasey Riecks. Finishing fourth with a total of 120 points is the UC Riverside women's basketball program.
Garnering the fifth slot in the poll with 107 points is Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine earned the sixth spot after acquiring 91 points. The pair of Orange County schools were followed by Cal State Northridge (73), Pacific (66) and Long Beach State (63).
1,000 And Counting
On Friday, December 2 senior Lauren Chow became the 21st Cal State Fullerton Titan to reach 1,000 career points. Chow, who owns 1,021 points, is one of two current Titans with 1,000-plus career points as teammate Megan Richardson currently has 1,406 career points, ranking her 37th in the Big West record book.
Other Big West players that have already notched their 1,000th career point are Cal Poly's Kristina Santiago (1,437), Cal State Northridge's Jasmine Erving (1,222) and UC Santa Barbaras Emilie Johnson (1,143). Santiago's impressive number places her 22nd in the Big West annals. UC Davis' Kasey Riecks is eyeing the milestone as she owns 930 points.
New Head Coaches Make Debut
UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara are both featuring a fresh face at the helm of their programs. Jennifer Gross, former associate head coach for the Aggies, begins her first season at the helm of the UC Davis' women's basketball program in 2011-12. Her promotion to head coach came after former head coach Sandy Simpson announced last October his retirement from coaching following this past season. Gross and her staff look to build on a memorable 2010-11 season where UC Davis captured a Big West Tournament championship and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament where they fell to second-ranked Stanford.
Carlene Mitchell, who has spent the past 10 seasons at Rutgers with the previous three as associate head coach, was named UC Santa Barbara's new head women's basketball coach in the offseason. In the first head coaching job in a distinguished career on the sidelines, Mitchell inherits a Gaucho squad that has won 14 Big West regular-season titles in the past 16 years.
Once again Long Beach State will showcase a multitude of fresh faces as they welcome six freshmen to this year's lineup. Back in 2010-11, the 49ers listed three freshmen in their starting rotation. The diaper dandies will be joined by a pair sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Also relying on the young this year are the Pacific Tigers, who return five of their 10 letterwinners from 2010-11, after losing players to both graduation and transfers. Key losses for the Tigers are senior guard Jennifer Fath, senior forward Andrea Swanson to graduation and freshman forward Danielle Peacon. After having four underclassmen start all 31 contests a year ago, and with the loss of some key players, this season seems to be shaping up to showcase yet another young lineup.