The Big West Battle Begins
Files associated with this release:
11-12 WBB Release 8
The Battle Begins
Thursday, Dec. 29 marks the start of Big West play for women's basketball. Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State and Pacific all have the luxury of opening league action on their home courts. The Matadors host UC Irvine in the front-end of a doubleheader with the men's team. Tipoff is slated for 4:00 p.m. The 49ers entertain the Highlanders at The Walter Pyramid and the Tigers welcome Cal State Fullerton to the Alex G. Spanos Center.
Conference play continues on New Year's Eve, which features the highly-anticipated matchup between 2010-11 Big West Conference Co-Champions Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara. The central coast foes concluded last season knotted in first place with a 12-4 mark, awarding both teams a share of the title. This was the first conference title for the Mustangs, while the Gauchos picked up their 14th. This year's meeting takes place at the Mustangs' Mott Gym at 4:00 p.m.
Other contests on Saturday include UC Irvine at Long Beach State, Cal State Fullerton at UC Davis and UC Riverside at Cal State Northridge.
Close But No Cigar
Last Monday seven schools took to the basketball court but only one team came out on top - The Pacific Tigers - but four other teams just missed notching a win. Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara both missed the mark by one point. Cal Poly fell to Loyola Marymount, 73-72, and UC Santa Barbara dropped a 52-51 contest against New Mexico State. Playing in Eugene, Ore., Cal State Northridge just missed a victory over Pac-12's Oregon, by a score of 79-76. Then there was Long Beach State, who was playing on its home court in the championship game of the each Classic Presented by Residence Inn/Courtyard Marriott. The 49ers battled Wichita State to double overtime before dropping a 73-64 battle.
During Cal State Fullerton's 76-74 victory over Nevada on Dec. 10, senior guard Lauren Chow drained her 200th career three-pointer, becoming just the eighth Big West player to reach the milestone. Her quest to the top began early in her Titan career as she registered 77 three-pointers her freshman year, earning her 2007-08 Big West Women's Basketball Freshman of the Year honors. Her mark ranked her seventh all-time in the Big West single-season list. With 201 total three-pointers, she is just 14 buckets away from grabbing the sixth spot.
Also making their way towards their 200th bucket from behind-the-arc are UC Santa Barbara's Emilie Johnson, UC Davis' Kasey Riecks and Cal State Fullerton's Megan Richardson. Johnson leads the trio with 181 baskets and is followed by Riecks with 148. Chow's teammate Richardson owns 148 three-pointers and McKenzie is holding steady at 131.
Pacific's Erica McKenzie is also eyeing the milestone from afar. The junior, who averaged 51 long-distance buckets her first two seasons, currently owns 131 three-pointers and has a season and a half remaining to accomplish this feat.
Titans' Winning Ways
Following an 81-65 victory over San Jose State, the Cal State Fullerton extended its win streak to three games as it heads into conference play. This marks the second time the Titans have won three straight contests this season.
UC Santa Barbara (5-6) once again showcased its stellar defense as it held UTEP, a team averaging 72 points per game, to score just 48 points in the Gauchos' 49-48 win on Dec. 21. 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 eight contests, UCSB has allowed just one of its opponents to reach the 50-point plateau. New Mexico State managed to drain 52 points in the Aggies 52-51 loss.
Home Sweet Home
Long Beach State's home-court dominance came to an end last week when it fell to Wichita State, 73-64, in double overtime, in the championship game of the Beach Classic Presented by Residence Inn/Courtyard Marriott. Prior to the 49ers loss to the Shockers, they had managed to string together four straight victories to start the year.
With Long Beach State's loss, that leaves UC Davis as the last man standing in the Big West Conference. 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 against Cal State Fullerton, a team that is 3-3 on the road. In 2010-11, UC Davis was 12-3 at home.
UC Irvine (4-8) remains winless on the road this year as it went 0-2 on its trip to the Rocky Mountains last week. The Anteaters are the only team that has been unable to get in the win column on the road. Until this past week, the Anteaters had company as UC Santa Barbara just nabbed its first road victory on Dec. 21 with a last-second bucket to down UTEP 49-48. UC Irvines next opportunities to clinch a road win are Dec. 29 and 31 with contests at Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State.
1,000 And Counting
Five current Big West players have already eclipsed the 1,000-career point marker, while one more player is inching her way towards the milestone. Follow them as they climb the Big West rankings.
Name, School - points (Big West ranking)
Kristina Santiago, Cal Poly - 1,514 (28th)
Megan Richardson, Cal State Fullerton - 1,454 (33rd)
Jasmine Erving, Cal State Northridge - 1,268 (55th)
Emilie Johnson, UC Santa Barbara - 1,150 (74th)
Lauren Chow, Cal State Fullerton - 1,034 (102nd)
Kasey Riecks, UC Davis - 952
Mustangs Tabbed To Repeat As Regular Season Champion
Cal Poly was selected to repeat as the Big West women's 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 womens 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).
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' womens 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.