Five Big West Women's Basketball Teams Continue On To Postseason Play
Files associated with this release:
11-12 WBB Release 19.pdf
After two quarterfinal upsets followed by semifinal shocks, Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara found themselves in the final game for the Big West Conference tournament, No.6 playing No.7 seed. It marked just the second time in Big West history that a seed lower than five has played for the title and the first time in Tournament history that the women’s champion will be lower than a four-seed.
UC Santa Barbara put up a battle against Pacific in the semifinals as neither team led by more than five points through most of the first half. Gauchos Melissa Zornig (23 points) and Nicole Nesbit (20) both notched career-scoring highs to put them in the race for the automatic birth to the NCAA tournament with an 84-66 win over the Pacific Tigers. This is the first time since the 2009 season that the Gauchos have made it to the championship round of the tournament, after dropping out in the first round last season against Pacific by four points.
Long Beach continued its dramatic post-season run with a win over No. 2 Cal State Northridge in the quarterfinals, and a shocking victory over No. 1 Cal Poly in the semifinals after trailing by double-digits to come back for the win. It was the second double-digit comeback the 49ers displayed in the Big West Tournament. The offensive struggles were obvious as the first half finished with Cal Poly shooting 20.8 percent from the field and Long Beach at 18.5 percent. In the three-point win (51-48), the 49ers held the Mustangs to one of their lowest shooting percentages on the season (28.1).
The Gauchos captured their first Big West Tournament championship since 2009 in a 63-54 win at the Honda Center against Long Beach State. Tournament MVP Kirsten Tilleman had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while teammate Melissa Zornig came off the bench to collect 12 points. UCSB won the Big West Tournament for the 14th time in 16 appearances but captured this year’s title as the No. 6 seed, the lowest in tournament history
In her first season as head coach for the Gauchos, Carlene Mitchell led Santa Barbara to a 17-15 record, advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the programs 14th appearance.
Mustangs’ Early Exit
Cal Poly went into the conference tournament hosting the last seed, Cal State Fullerton at home. The Mustangs were able to get the only top-seed win for the conference as No. 2 Cal State Northridge, No. 3 UC Irvine and No. 4 UC Davis fell in the quarterfinals to the lower seeded teams. Senior, Kristina Santiago had a game-high 31 points collecting her 16th double-double of the year with 12 rebounds. Cal Poly made their way to Honda Center for the semifinals against No. 7 Long Beach State, where in the regular season, the two teams split.
Unable to hold on for the second consecutive year, the Mustangs fell to Long Beach 51-48, the regular season champs unable to get the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. It was an offensive struggle for both teams in the semifinal matchup, despite Santiago’s late push Cal Poly was still unable to come up on the winning end. Long Beach held Cal Poly to its lowest shooting percentage from the floor this season against a conference opponent (28.1), only one other team held the Mustangs to a lower percentage this season, San Diego in a 69-52 loss at 26.2 percent.
Northridge Changes Course
Cal State Northridge posted one of the best win-differential records in the NCAA Division I conference this season in comparison to last season’s finish. With just four wins in the 2010-2011 season under first-year head coach Jason Flowers, the Matadors have turned it around in a matter of a year with a total of 17 wins this season.
It was the first appearance for the Matadors in the Big West Conference Basketball Tournament since the 2008-2009 season and the highest seed Northridge has entered the tournament in program history (2004-05, No. 4, 2005-06, No. 7, 2006-07, No.4, 2008-09, No. 8). Despite a winning season under their belt and the home court advantage for the quarterfinals of the Big West Tournament, the Matadors struggled to finish strong, falling to the No. 7 seed Long Beach State, 57-52.
Regular season champions, Cal Poly (17-14) will make their second-consecutive appearance in the WNIT, this postseason facing the Washington Huskies (17-13) at the Alaska Airlines Arena on Wednesday, March 14th. This will be the first meeting between the two teams.
The Mustangs won the Big West Conference Regular Season Championship with a 12-4 record. Cal Poly lost in the semifinals to Long Beach State, 51-48, on Friday. Washington enters the game 17-13 overall and 8-10 in Pac-12 play.
Conference front-runner, Cal State Northridge got a bid going up against San Diego on Friday, March 16 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. The Toreros hold a 4-13 advantage over the Matadors in the program’s meetings, the last contest January 2011 where Northridge dropped 66-50.
The Pacific Tigers are the only Big West team to play host for the first round, welcoming Arizona State on Friday, March 16 to the Alex G. Spanos Center. This is the second postseason bid that the Tigers have received in program history to the WNIT, their last appearance in 1995.
Pacific (17-13 overall) finished tied for third in the Big West at 10-6. The Tigers advanced to the semifinals, where they were defeated by 2012 Tournament Champions, UC Santa Barbara. This is the first time since the 2001-02 season that the Tigers have had 17 or more wins.
UC Davis comes in as the last Big West team to receive a berth into the postseason tournament, traveling to Corvallis to take on Oregon State on Thursday, March 15th. This is the third appearance for the Aggies in the WNIT postseason tournament, the last showing in 2010 and 2008 seasons where they fell to each opponent in the first round.
1,000 And Counting
Six current Big West players have eclipsed the 1,000-career point milestone.
Follow all six players as they climb the Big West rankings.
Name, School - points (Big West ranking)
Kristina Santiago, Cal Poly - 1,896 (8th)
Megan Richardson, Cal State Fullerton - 1,742 (13th)
Jasmine Erving, Cal State Northridge - 1,530 (28th)
Emilie Johnson, UC Santa Barbara - 1,340 (45th)
Lauren Chow, Cal State Fullerton - 1,310 (52nd)
Kasey Riecks, UC Davis - 1,072 (95th)
A total of 21 players will be graduating from the 2011-2012 Big West women’s basketball rosters - Cal Poly and UC Davis (4), Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara (2), and Pacific (1). In the aforementioned class, the Big West is graduating numerous key players that have made history in their individual programs as well as in Big West history.
Kristina Santiago will be leaving the biggest mark in her three years of play in a Mustangs uniform. Santiago leads the league in scoring with 23.3 points per game average, .561 shooting percentage and averaging 10.1 rebounds, garnering herself a spot in numerous categories nationally and breaking both conference and institution scoring records.
Cal State Northridge senior Jasmine Erving had 12 points and nine rebounds in her final regular season contest for the Matadors against Cal State Fullerton in a 60-51 success. Erving finished 3-of-8 from the field but a perfect 6-of-6 from the line in her final regular season home game. Over her career, Erving made the Big West 1,000-point club and counting list with 1,517 career points thus far, while starting in all 29 contest in her senior season.
Megan Richardson who ranked second in the conference in scoring with a 16.2 average, has been a standout for Cal State Fullerton since her freshman campaign. She has scored in double figures in 23 of the team’s 29 games this season, while holding the 14th spot in all-time career scoring Big West history with 1,729 points. She is among three historical Titans to score 400 points or more in three-consecutive seasons. The senior guard has played in every game of her career and has started the last 116 contests. The only games where she did not start were early in her Titan career where she missed five starts at the beginning of her freshman season.
The Aggies are graduating leading scorer Samantha Meggison who has started each game for Davis in her senior season. Meggison averages 11.2 points on the season while scoring a team-high 13 points in her final regular season game against UC Santa Barbara last week, where the Aggies dropped 60-56 at The Pavilion.
Senior guard for the Gauchos, Emilie Johnson, has had a strong finish for Santa Barbara scoring in double figures for seven of the last eight contests. Johnson averages 9.4 points per game to lead the Gauchos in scoring, while starting in 25 of her 16 appearances this season and has been named one of the Top-10 nationwide finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.