Mustangs, Matadors Atop The Big West
The Mustangs and Matadors have maintained a perfect record to sit atop the Big West leaderboard. Co-defending champion and preseason favorite Cal Poly is 2-0 and Cal State Northridge, who handed Long Beach State its first loss last week with a 57-50 victory, is 3-0 for its best start to league action since the 2004-05 season. Cal Poly, who is 5-2 at home this year, entertains UC Riverside and UC Irvine at Mott Gym this week, while Cal State Northridge travels north to battle UC Davis and Pacific.
Anteaters Get Much Needed Boost
UC Irvine returned to the familiar confines of the Bren Center last week and picked up a pair of Big West Conference wins, snapping a five-game skid, four of which were on the road. The Anteaters opened the week knocking off Pacific, 77-75 in overtime, and then recorded their first victory over UC Davis since 2006 by a score of 60-54. The Anteaters have now won four of their last five home contests, but unfortunately they are back on the road this week where they remain winless. They are led by Kassandra McCalister's 10.5 points per game and Jazmyne White's 6.0 boards per contest. Coming on strong late in the season has beenAnete Klintsone. Fueled by a career-best effort last week (21 points), she averages 12.5 points per game in conference contests to lead the squad.
History In The Making?
Cal State Northridge is building a rather impressive resume this year as it currently holds an 8-7 overall record and 3-0 mark in Big West play, which is its best showing since the 2006-07 season where the Matadors squad went 13-6 and 9-5 in conference action. Under the helm of second-year coach Jason Flowers, the first-place Matadors have never finished better than eighth place in the league since the 2006-07 season, where they placed fourth. The Matadors are currently one of three Big West teams to own a winning overall record. Pacific (8-6) and UC Davis (9-6) being the other two winning programs.
All Hands On Deck
UC Irvine and UC Riverside are two of 10 teams in Division I women's basketball that has featured 10 players on heir roster making at least one start this season. Only two teams, Louisiana Tech and Loyola Marymount, have featured more starters with 11 players recording at least one start this year. It isn't surprising that the Highlanders have showcased eight different starting line-ups in 2011-12 (fourth most in the country) since this is a rebuilding year for them after losing five players due to graduation, including four of its top five scorers.
Highlanders Looking For First Win
Losing a majority of their lineup in the offseason has definitely hurt the former Big West Champion UC Riverside Highlanders. The Highlanders are the lone team in the league without a Big West victory, going 0-4 in the first two weeks of conference play. A season ago, UC Riverside accumulated a 19-13 overall mark and a 11-5 Big West record to finish third in the league. Unfortunately the Highlanders, who list eight freshmen on their 2011-12 roster, lost a majority of their scoring in the offseason.
Fans witnessed yet another stellar defensive performance by the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos last week. The Gauchos held Cal State Fullerton to 37 points, allowing UC Santa Barbara to sneak by with a 39-37 victory. For the year, UCSB is holding its opponents to a 49.6 scoring average, ranking them seventh in the country. While pacing the league in scoring defense, the Gauchos have been struggling on offense with a ninth-ranked 51.1 scoring average. With much of their success relying heavily on their defense, the Gauchos are 6-10 overall and 1-1 in Big West play.
UC Irvine's Road Woes
UC Irvine (6-8) remains winless on the road this year as it went 0-2 to start conference play, dropping its road record to 0-8. UC Irvine, who snapped a five-game skid with a pair of home victories last week, is the only team that hasn't been able to post a win away from their hometown fans. This week UC Irvine's gets another opportunity to clinch a road win as the Anteaters travel to the central coast to battle UC Santa Barbara (1/12) and Cal Poly (1/14).
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 206 total three-pointers, she is just nine buckets away from grabbing the sixth spot.
Also making her way towards her 200th bucket from behind-the-arc is UC Santa Barbaras Emilie Johnson, who currently owns 187 baskets.
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 - 1,561 (24th)
Megan Richardson, Cal State Fullerton - 1,514 (29th)
Jasmine Erving, Cal State Northridge - 1,295 (51st)
Emilie Johnson, UC Santa Barbara - 1,170 (71st)
Lauren Chow, Cal State Fullerton - 1,055 (100th)
Kasey Riecks, UC Davis - 982
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 womens 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 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 womens 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.