In a game that was promising to turn into another Gaucho blowout, the tables have turned following several injuries and the team’s suspensions of senior forwards Kristen Mann and Brandy Richardson and sophomore guard Erin O’Bryan.
So before all you Gauchos Locos start the “warm up the bus” chant at tonight’s 7 p.m. home matchup against Big West newbie Utah State, consider this – out of 15 players on the roster, only seven will suit up for this game.
“We suspended [three players] for team rule violation,” Head Coach Mark French said. “That really changes the complexion of the game tremendously. My major concern will be our depth.”
French made no further comment as to the nature of the player’s violations.
In Mann, the Gauchos lose their team’s leading scorer who was knocking down more than twice as many points per game (21.4) as the team’s next leading scorer, except for Jenna Green who played in only three games this season.
Without Richardson, UCSB will walk on to the court tonight without the team’s leading rebounder (7.4 rpg). The loss of O’Bryan is no small blow to the Gaucho’s spirit either, as she was contributing 5.6 points per game.
The UCSB injury list includes freshman guard Jessica Wilson, junior guard Courtney Young, junior forward Hillary Jager and Green. Freshman guard Ana Onaindia is currently listed as doubtful for tomorrow’s matchup.
“I think we must be keeping up with the men; I heard they had another injury now too,” French said. “Maybe we’ll go coed eventually and have a bigger roster with 14 healthy men and women.”
Take a breath, Gaucho fans, things could be worse. At least tomorrow’s opponent is Utah State. Last year the Aggies finished dead last in Big West play and notched only five victories.
This season, while the Aggies have already matched last season’s win total at 5-5, they are by no means a championship contender. While UCSB used the preseason to test itself against some of the best teams in the nation, it seems the Aggies used it to inflate their mediocre record.
“Just like any other team, they are out to get us because we’re defending Big West champs,” junior guard Karena Bonds said. “[The suspensions] change our team chemistry, but we’ve all played with each other at one point or another. It just means [that] we have to rely on each other more tomorrow.”
Suspensions aside, Utah State is also giving the Gauchos unforeseen problems to think about as tonight’s game approaches. Last week in their season-opener against Idaho, the Aggies put up a surprising challenge, losing by one point in the final moments of the game 62-63.
For those who may have forgotten, Idaho was the only Big West team to steal a win from UCSB last season and returned four out of five starters this year.
“[The Aggies] shoot the ball really well and that’s the thing that really stands out about them,” French said. “I think they shot 60 percent from three-point range against Idaho the other day; that gets our attention.”
All things considered, tonight will be quite a game. If the Gauchos stay out of foul trouble, they are conditioned well enough to last through the whole game and should receive mature performances from their relatively untested freshmen. A victory can be theirs for the taking.
“It’s a great opportunity for [the freshman], but I’m a little bit concerned about our younger players having that burden and responsibility,” French said. “Leadership-wise, Brandy and Kristen are two of our two great, great players [who we will be missing].”