The formidable duo that has methodically run the show for Gaucho backcourt the past four seasons will lead the #19 UCSB women’s basketball team onto the Thunderdome’s court for the final time this weekend.
Senior guards Jess Hansen and Debby Caine bid farewell to Santa Barbara’s loyal supporters at Saturday night’s regular season finale against Riverside. The senior tandem must suit up for a dress rehearsal tonight as the Gauchos host Fullerton at 7.
“These last couple games are going to be sad because it’s Jess and Debby’s last, but I’m really excited for them,” junior center Lindsay Taylor said.
In their tenure, Caine and Hansen have generated a 99-23 record over four years and will gun for number 100 tonight against the Titans.
Caine and Hansen, three-year starters and four-year contributors, are prototypical guards in UCSB Head Coach Mark French’s system. Both players excel on the court, in the classroom and with the community.
“I think that Jess and Debby reflect exactly what we look for in our recruiting process here at UCSB,” French said. “Personally, they are very different, which creates a great leadership combination.”
Debby Caine, a native of Huntington Beach, ranks fourth on the all-time Santa Barbara list in assists (410), three-point field goal percentage (39.5%), three-pointers made (104) and free throw percentage (78.3%).
“Debby is such a great passer,” Taylor said. “She has really helped me become a better post player because she can get the lob into me well.”
Four years ago, the UCSB coaching staff went to Caine’s club team to recruit another backcourt player with All-American status. But after looking more closely, French decided on a smaller and more vivacious Caine.
“Our decision on taking Debby was definitely not based entirely on her basketball experience,” French said. “We saw things in her that ultimately attracted us to her more than the All-American did.”
Hansen’s recruiting process was entirely different. The Oregon City, Ore. native matriculates from one of the best women’s basketball high school programs on the West Coast. At Oregon City High School, Hansen helped lead her squad to two state titles and the 1996-97 National Championship.
“The reason we liked Jess is because she came from a program similar to ours in that they didn’t foster superstars,” French said. “We thought Jess would thrive well here.”
Hansen has thrived at Santa Barbara. She possesses the highest three-point field goal percentage in school history with an astounding 42.5 percent. Hansen’s .451 mark this season is seventh best nationally. The 2001-02 Big West All-Academic Team member has netted 1,080 points, 15th best on the all-time Santa Barbara list.
“Jess and I have really gelled on the court,” Taylor said. “They can’t double-team me because they have to worry about such a great three-point shooter outside.”
Hansen has built a reputation as a primetime performer. She nailed perhaps the biggest shot in Gaucho history, a fade-away jumper with 1.1 second remaining to give UCSB a stunning 57-56 upset over fifth-seed Louisiana Tech in the first round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
This year, Hansen provided another miracle in the final minute of Santa Barbara’s 83-82 overtime upset over #5 Purdue at the Thunderdome on Dec. 17. Hansen’s clutch three-pointer proved to be the difference maker against the Boilermakers.
Finally, on Feb. 15 in Baton Rouge, La., Hansen drove the length of the court for a last second layup to force overtime against #4 LSU. Hansen scored 23 points in a thrilling triple-overtime loss to the Tigers.
“If you ever wanted the ball in someone’s hands for a last-second shot,” French said, “there would be no other person I could think of to take the shot than Jess Hansen.”