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OldGoldFreePress COLUMNISTS | BACK TO Steve'S COLUMNS

PURDUE WOMENS BASKETBALL:
Women's Opponents' Profile #9: UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, 12/19/03


Gauchos boast fine defense, deep frontcourt, and perhaps America's most underrated coach.


Date: 12/19/2003
Author: Steve
© Old Gold Free Press Columnists

    Welcome to the ninth opponent profile for the 2003-2004 season. Each profile will include information about the opponent’s women’s basketball team and one player or coach on the team. Addresses to web pages will follow each section. Look for a profile on each opponent 1-2 days before the tip-off.

    The Team

    UC Santa Barbara enters the contest with a 5-2 record, winning its most recent game, at Cincinnati, in overtime. Prior to that game, the Gauchos defeated San Diego and Utah in the Preseason WNIT, lost to Texas Tech (the eventual WNIT champs), defeated Arizona and Illinois at home, and lost to Florida thanks to a monster performance (31 points, 17 rebounds, 7 blocks) from center Vanessa Hayden.

    Like a lot of teams Purdue has faced this year, the Gauchos have a deep roster. Eight players have played in all six UCSB games this year, none averaging more than 31 minutes per game. A ninth player, Brandy Richardson, has played five games to date and was last season’s top rebounder. Look for a starting frontcourt of Lindsay Taylor at 6’8”, Kristen Mann (who missed last year’s game) at 6’2”, and Richardson at 6'0". Richardson pulled down 13 rebounds in last season’s overtime game. The Gauchos also boast 6’6” junior Kate Bauman and 6’4” frosh Jenna Green, so there’ll be plenty of size for the Boilermakers to work against in the game. The backcourt is led by 5’9” junior Mia Fisher, the team’s third-leading scorer, and 5’7” April McDivitt, a University of Tennessee transfer who was chosen a preseason first-team All Big West player. McDivitt leads the Gauchos in assists and steals while Fisher is the team’s second-best shooter from the field.

    The Gauchos haven’t meshed offensively, as the team’s 75/105 A/TO ratio attests. Add that the Gauchos shoot 41.5% from the field and 32.8% from the line and you’ve got a team that averages only 61.5 points from the floor. Lindsay Taylor is the only Gaucho shooting better than 50% from the floor and 75% from the line. Her 12.5 points per game leads the squad that has at least seven players averaging more than four points a contest.

    Defensively, the Gauchos have a proud tradition of forcing opponents to miss: teams that face the Gauchos have gone an amazing 110 games in a row without scratching the 50% plateau on field goal shooting. This streak began with the finale of the 1999-2000 season, Lindsay Taylor's redshirt year. Gaucho opponents have been held to 36.7% from the field this year and 23.2% beyond the 3-point line. With the Boilermakers struggling recently from the field, look for the sub-50% record to continue at Mackey. The Gauchos allow only 59.2 points per game.

    With all the depth and experience the Gauchos have on the frontcourt, it’s a bit of a mystery why the squad is being outrebounded by more than three per game. Despite that, it’s important to note that all the Gauchos rebound: the seven players all average at least three per game, led by Mann’s 7.8.

    The official site of the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos women’s basketball team is found at: http://ucsbgauchos.ocsn.com/sports/w-baskbl/spec-rel/121803aaa.html

    The Coach

    So here’s the deal: turnovers are a major part of the women’s collegiate basketball game. And I’m not talking three-second violations, moving screens called as offensive fouls, or passes intercepted as they’re thrown to the low blocks. It’s all about coaching turnover. Usually the teams that experience the most coaching turnover experience the most turmoil, but not always as the Boilermakers survived and thrived having four head coaches in the span of five seasons. And usually the teams that experience little coaching turnover have been the most successful, but not always: see Wake Forest and UCLA.

    Santa Barbara, the top team in the Big West Conference for years, has seen its program reach its current heights under the guidance of Mark French, who has been the Gauchos’ head coach since the 1987-1988 season. Turnarounds seem to be the man’s specialty as he not only led UCSB to its first winning season ever in Division I, but also turned around the fortunes of Pacific and Idaho State. His Big West record is nothing short of astonishing (115-7 since 1996 and eight consecutive postseason appearances in that period), and his program has developed a personality.

    The reigning Big West Coach of the Year not only gets his players to succeed on the court, but they also have done a fine job representing the college off the court, as a 97% graduation rate attests. The official bio of head coach Mark French can be found at: http://ucsbgauchos.ocsn.com/sports/w-baskbl/mtt/french_mark01.html

    The Prediction

    The game against the Gauchos will be one of the toughest the Boilermakers have faced all year. UC Santa Barbara not only is a veteran team, but an NCAA-caliber team that has years of tradition behind it and the respect of a lot of people around the country. The Gauchos play in the raucously loud Thunderdome, so the players shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the Mackey atmosphere that faces them; Mark French who won’t let his team squander opportunities or get rattled by a big Purdue run; and UC Santa Barbara defeated Purdue in overtime last year, so look for the Gauchos to come into the game with confidence against the Old Gold and Black.

    It’s a game that Purdue must win if it hopes to stay in the top-10 national rankings and gain momentum as the Big Ten season approaches. Having faced only two nationally ranked teams so far, and being spanked by one of them, the Boilermakers can boost their RPI with a victory. Plus, competing a front line composed of players at 6’8”, 6’2”, and 6'0" will be a nice test to see how far the frontcourt players have come since the beginning of the season and may forecast things to come.

    UC Santa Barbara has had a tough go of it lately, losing soundly to an unranked Florida team and having to go into overtime to win against Cincinnati, two teams with strong post players in Vanessa Hayden and Debbie Merrill. Purdue doesn’t have any players who’ll pull off a 31 points, 17 rebound, 7 block performance like Hayden or draw double-teams in the post like Merrill, however. And while UCSB is only 1-2 in road games this year, few opponents are going to defeat Texas Tech anywhere, much less in Lubbock, and Vanessa Hayden may shrug aside all-comers in Gainesville.

    UC Santa Barbara may still be rusty after a long layoff before the UF game, but the Boilermakers also have had a layoff of six days since playing UCLA. Add that the Purdue players have been going through final exams this week, and Purdue may be even rustier. Finally, the Boilermakers have been playing to the level of their opponents lately (Wake Forest, Valparaiso, Houston, UCLA) and have needed magic to pull out the last two games. All of these factors add up to Purdue’s second loss of the year, and first at Mackey Arena since the 74-70 NCAA loss to Old Dominion. The Gauchos win 66-62, their first road victory over a nationally ranked team since 1999.


As news organizations move their stories to an archive, some of the links listed above may become inactive

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