With just four games left in the regular season, the UCSB women’s basketball team will have to finish the season without a loss if they are to have a chance at taking their 12th consecutive Big West championship.
The Gauchos (14-11 overall, 7-3 in the Big West) begin their final homestand of the season tonight by hosting Cal State Fullerton (13-13, 7-5 Big West), and finish on Saturday with a match-up against league-leading UC Riverside (17-9, 11-1 Big West).
With a close 71-68 loss to Big West middleweight Cal Poly last Saturday, Santa Barbara fell below .500 in the Thunderdome for the first time this season at 7-8. The loss also prevented UCSB from being able to take the outright Big West season title. In order for the Gauchos to share the title, the powerhouse Highlanders will have to lose their remaining two games. The Gauchos will at least have a hand in their own fate when they play the Highlanders on Saturday, but UCR will first have to lose at Cal Poly tonight for UCSB’s glimmer of hope to stay alive. The Mustangs will surely have a chance with the momentum gained from their current six-game winning streak.
The Gauchos are led by junior center Jenna Green, who last week joined the prestigious 1,000 point club for the UCSB women’s basketball program. Green is averaging 16.4 points per game off 53.6% shooting along with 7.3 rebounds per game – which are both team highs.
Santa Barbara’s outside shooting threat comes from junior guards Jessica Wilson and Chisa Ononiwu. Wilson is averaging 13.3 points per game along with 6.3 boards a game, along with a team leading 4.4 assists per game and an excellent 1.4 assist/turnover ratio. Ononiwu has been one of the Gauchos’ most explosive scorers, and if she can continue shooting 43.6 percent from beyond the arc, Santa Barbara will never be out of a game.
UCSB will be facing a Titan team that has won six of its last eight games, and half of their wins have been by a margin larger than 10. However, aside from a Feb. 10 win over third place Cal State Northridge, all of Fullerton’s wins have come against teams in the bottom half of the Big West standings.
The Titans are led by sophomore forward Toni Thomas, who is averaging 17.1 points per game off 44.7 percent shooting along with 8.6 boards per game. Thomas also leads the team in steals and blocks with 42 and 21 on the year, respectively. CSUF has only one other scorer in double digits on the year, senior forward Charlee Underwood, who is averaging 14.6 points per game off 40.8 percent shooting.
The Gauchos take on the Titans with their championship dreams on the line tonight with tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.