Time For Tipoff As Women's Hoops Gets Underway
Big West Women's Basketball Weekly Release No. 1
The wait is over for the 2015-16 women's hoops season as all nine clubs hit the hardwood for the first official week of regular season play this weekend.
BIG WEST AT A GLANCE
For Openers: Cal Poly opens the season in the Lone Star State, participating in the Hampton Inn & Suites Hilton-Corpus Christi Islanders Classic. The Mustangs will take on host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Welcome Back: Cal Poly returns 14 letterwinners from a year ago, with two of them returning to the starting lineup. The team has a solid mix of experience and youth as the roster features nine upperclassmen and 10 underclassmen.
It’s Going In: The Mustangs return the top shooter by field goal percentage in the Big West in junior Hannah Gilbert. The forward shot 52.6% as a sophomore, one of three players to shoot 50% or better a year ago.
The Numbers Game...73.5%: Cal Poly has won 73.5% of its games inside the Mott Athletics Center since 2008-09.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
For Openers: Cal State Fullerton will play its season opener at home Friday, hosting Portland State. It will be the lone game of the weekend for the Titans.
Name Tags Needed: Cal State Fullerton faces significant turnover on its roster for 2015-16, as it returns five players from a club that reached the Big West Tournament semifinals. The Titans welcome five freshmen and one transfer to go along with the returnees, giving them just one senior and two juniors on the team.
About That Transfer: CSF gets an infusion of height with the addition of Karima Gabriel, a transfer from Boston College. The senior averaged 5.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 15.9 minutes in her junior campaign at BC. Her 45 blocks was the most by an Eagle since the 2010-11 campaign.
The Numbers Game...66%: With the graduation of Chante Miles, Kathleen Iwuoha and Tailer Butler, CSF loses 66% of its scoring from a year ago. The leading returning scorer is junior Samantha Logan who scored 5.4 points per game and connected on 33.8% (52-154) of her threes a year ago.
For Openers: Defending two-time Big West Tournament champion CSUN opens the season with a single game this weekend, hosting Saint Mary’s in the Matadome.
Chasing History: The Matadors are looking to be the first team since UC Santa Barbara from 2002-05 to win three consecutive Big West Tournament titles. That Gaucho run extended over four consecutive tourneys.
Youth Will Reign: The Matadors are one of the youngest teams in the country, returning just six letterwinners and welcoming nine newcomers. CSUN has 26 combined career starts on its roster, the sixth-fewest figure in the NCAA.
The Numbers Game...8: CSUN will be a long team once again as eight player on the roster stand 5-10 or taller.
LONG BEACH STATE
For Openers: Long Beach State enters the 2015-16 season on the heels of its most successful season in 15 years. LBSU’s journey begins at home at it hosts San Diego State and Portland State.
About 2014-15: The 49ers went 22-10 a year ago, its first 20-win season since 1999-00. The club’s standout season earned them a berth into the WNIT after an appearance in the Big West quarterfinals.
The Returnees: The Beach returns seven letterwinners and two starters from last year’s squad, bringing back more than 40 percent of its points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks from last year. In all, the returnees have a combined 402 games at the Division I level.
The Raven Cometh: Junior Raven Benton is the top returnee for the 49ers after she averaged 11.5 points and 5.0 rebounds a year ago. Benton, who had her season cut short due to injury, started 13 of the 24 games she appeared in last season, was named second team All-Big West and was voted to this season’s preseason All-Conference squad.
The Numbers Game...4-0: LBSU is 4-0 under Jody Wynn in season openers at the Walter Pyramid.
For Openers: UC Davis opens the season against a nationally-ranked foe for the second straight season, hosting #14 Stanford at the Pavilion. A year ago, UCD hosted eventual national champion Connecticut in its season opener. UC Davis will also welcome former Big West rival Pacific in a tough opening weekend.
Ready To Roll: An experienced Aggie team enters 2015-16 after finishing last season in the Big West Tournament semifinals. 12 letterwinners and two starters are back in the fold, led by second team All-Big West selection Alyson Doherty. The senior center averaged 13.4 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting 50.5% from the floor.
Be The Three: UCD was a prolific three-point shooting team a year ago, nailing 251 buckets from downtown and shooting 38.7% from beyond the arc.
The Numbers Game...88: Doherty is just 88 points shy of 1,000 for her career.
For Openers: UC Irvine opens up the season with a single game this weekend, hosting St. John’s in a Sunday matinee. It will be a tough challenge for UCI in the Bren as the Red Storm are receiving votes in the USA Today poll
Who’s Back? Mokun’s Back: The Anteaters return 10 letterwinners from last year, headlined by second team All-Big West selection Mokun Fajemisin. The redshirt junior averaged 12.2. points, 7.6 rebounds, posted seven double-doubles and led conference play with 2.1 blocks per game. Fajemisin was also named to the preseason All-Conference team.
Tough Road Ahead: UCI faces a tough schedule this season, facing off against seven foes that made postseason appearances and six clubs that won 20 or more games in 2014-15. The ‘Eaters also won’t play another home game after Sunday’s contest until December 4.
The Numbers Game...4.8: Senior Raelyn Cheung-Sutton tied for the league lead in assists a year ago, putting up 4.8 per contest.
For Openers: UC Riverside opens up the season at home against Fresno State Friday, then opens up a three-game road trip against San Diego State Monday.
The Player Of The Year Is Back: The Highlanders return arguably the league’s top all-around player in Brittany Crain. A year ago the senior ranked tops in the league in scoring (21.7), 11th in rebounds (6.1), second in free throws made (130), third in three-pointers made (75), second in steals per game (2.0) and tops in minutes per game (38.4). Crain was named Big West Player of the Year and first team All-Big West after her outstanding season.
Verin The Magnificent: The Highlanders add an impact low post threat in redshirt junior Réjane Verin this season, a transfer from UNLV. The former Runnin’ Rebel won the Mountain West Freshman of the Year honor and was an honorable mention All-Mountain West pick.
The Numbers Game...393: Crain is 393 points shy of becoming just the seventh player, and second Highlander, to score 2,000 career points.
UC SANTA BARBARA
For Openers: UC Santa Barbara begins its 2015-16 campaign on the road as the club heads to Washington State and Idaho. In all, the Gauchos will play five of its first seven games on the road.
Under New Management: UC Santa Barbara welcomes a new era on the sidelines as Bonnie Henrickson begins her first season on the sidelines. Henrickson has 18 seasons worth of head coaching experience, most recently an 11-year stint at Kansas, and 344 career wins.
Onome...Oh Yes: Junior Onome Jemerigbe is the Gauchos’ top returner, averaging 8.6 points, 4.0 assists and 1.6 steals during her sophomore campaign. Jemerigbe, an honorable mention All-Big West honoree, was the lone UCSB player to start all 29 games last year.
The Numbers Game...47.9: UC Santa Barbara will look to ramp up the offense this season after averaging a league-low 47.9 points per game last season.
For Openers: Defending regular season champion Hawai’i opens the season on the road this weekend, visiting Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona. After this quick roadtrip, UH will play its next seven games on the islands.
Nothing Easy: The ‘Bows will again face some of the stiffest competition in the country during its non-conference slate. Arizona State, South Carolina, Brigham Young and Texas A&M headline a difficult slate of foes.
One More Year: UH received some good news in the offseason as Ashleigh Karaitiana was granted an extra year of eligibility. The senior was a key starter last year, averaging 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and hitting 45 three-pointers on her way to second team All-Big West accolades. Karaitiana was also named to the preseason All-Big West team.
The Numbers Game...3: Hawai’i has made a postseason appearance in each of the three years since its return to the Big West.