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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / 2000-2001 PREVIEW | SOUTHLAND
WOMEN'S OVERVIEW

UC Santa Barbara Is Happy, Sad

November 16, 2000|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Of all the season-ending disappointments suffered by Southland women's college teams last season, probably none compares to UC Santa Barbara's opening-round defeat in the NCAA tournament.

The team, which had gone 15-0 in the Big West Conference for a second consecutive season and was ranked ninth in the nation in one poll, hosted Rice in its opening NCAA game--and lost, 67-64.

A crusher, to be sure.

But there was an even bigger one, just over the horizon.

The team's star, 6-foot-3 junior guard Erin Buescher--three-time Big West player of the year-- walked into Coach Mark French's office last Sept. 15, just after she'd registered for UCSB classes, and told him that because she couldn't find the religious atmosphere she wanted at UCSB, she was transferring to the Master's College in Santa Clarita, an NAIA school where she immediately will be eligible.

The team had just returned from a European tour of games in France, Switzerland and Belgium, and Buescher hadn't given anyone any indication of her plans.

Her closest friend on the team, Nicole Greathouse, said she was stunned by the news.

Buescher had been projected by WNBA coaches as a first-round draft pick next spring.

News of her abrupt departure was a crusher at UCSB, where French and his team harbored hopes of another 30-win season.

The Gauchos had a 26-game winning streak last season-- longest in the nation--defeated USC in a nonconference game for the third consecutive time and sent their senior leader, point guard Stacy Clinesmith, into the WNBA.

Buescher averaged 17.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists and led UCSB to its fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

French says he has told his team to move on from the disappointment, and his only comment on it was, "My own personal thoughts are dominated by two feelings--gratitude and sadness."

French has two starters returning up front, the 6-2 Greathouse and 6-3 Kayte Christensen. The West's tallest player, 6-8 redshirt freshman Lindsay Taylor, should get major minutes inside.

Clinesmith, a four-year starter now with the Sacramento Monarchs, left a void. French will begin by using two new point guards, 5-7 sophomore Debby Caine and 5-9 freshman Syretta Coleman. It's expected 6-foot senior Rachelle Rogers will start on the wing, backed up by 5-8 sophomore Jess Hansen.

Hansen and Greathouse were both 43% three-point shooters last season.

*

Pepperdine went 21-10 last season, 12-2 in the West Coast Conference, then went to the NCAA Mideast Regional and lost to Virginia, 74-62.

Coach Mark Trakh has four starters back, among them Rasheeda Clark, WCC player of the year. A 5-10 senior guard, Clark was a 15.5-point scorer last season. Other returning starters are 5-7 sophomore guard Tamara McDonald, 6-2 junior Nadja Morgan and 5-11 senior Nesha Thomas.

In the WCC coaches' poll, the Waves were a slim pick to edge out Santa Clara for the championship.

*

Another Southland team coming back from an NCAA appearance is the University of San Diego. The Toreros went 17-13, won the WCC tournament and lost to Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament, 87-61.

Coach Kathy Marpe, in her 21st season, moves her team into its new 5,100-seat Jenny Craig Pavilion with a pair of returning 5-6 starters at guard, sophomore Kerri Nakamoto and junior Melissa Glazebrook.

Starting up front at forward will be 5-9 junior Robyn Fortney and 6-1 junior Amber Jansen, who transferred from Rhode Island. The center is 6-3 senior Jamie Lucia.

*

* At Loyola Marymount, Coach Julie Wilhoit has four returning starters back from a team that won 13 games last season, the most at the school in seven years.

The returning starters are 5-7 senior guard Taryn Reynolds, 6-0 sophomore guard Kate Murray, 5-6 junior guard Rosa Bernasconi and 5-11 junior guard Bryn Britton.

Bernasconi had a school-record 39-point game last season against Gonzaga.

* Cal State Northridge lost four starters from last year's 18-10 team, one of them the Matadors' all-time scoring leader, point guard Edniesha Curry, who transferred to Oregon.

But Coach Frozena Jerro has brought in six junior college players and has one starter back, 5-6 senior guard LaShaunda Fowler. Also on hand is Utah transfer Kristl Rose, a 6-4 center.

* Long Beach State has four starters back from a team that went 22-11 in Coach Dallas Boychuk-Bolla's fifth 49er season.

The starters: forwards Charel Bailey (6-1), Crystal Givens (6-0); guards Reta Sula (5-6) and Tamara Inoue (5-6). Top newcomer is Ekuah Ramsey, a 5-10 transfer from Foothill Junior College.

* San Diego State was 4-10 in the Mountain West Conference and 9-19 overall last season. The Aztecs are expected to finish roughly the same this season.

There are four starters returning, but high expectations on the top newcomer, 6-1 Missy Schomaker, a junior college transfer from Hutchinson College in Kansas.

Returning starters: 5-11 senior Anita Bundage, 5-7 sophomore Jamey Cox, 5-9 senior Shannon Lee and 6-0 junior forward Atim Otii.

* Cal State Fullerton, which went nowhere in three years under Denise Curry (16-64), literally starts from scratch this season under new Coach Barbara Dee Ehardt, who moves over from Idaho State.

Ehardt inherits returning starters but made no promises to anyone when practice began. Five junior college transfers, she said, will get long looks. They include 5-3 Genia Daniels, 5-8 Jennielee Greslie, 5-7 Katie McCluskey, 6-2 Allison Parks and 5-9 Danielle Robinson.

"We are going to run, gun and have some fun--and play some inspired defense along the way," Ehardt said.

*

Division II Cal Poly Pomona has four starters back from its 26-3 team of last season. The Broncos were ranked as high as 10th in one Division II poll last year.

Returning starters are led by All-American Lauri McIntosh, a 5-10 junior forward and California Collegiate Athletic Assn. player of the year.

The others: LaTasha Burnett, 5-5 senior point; Burgundie Porter, 5-6 junior guard, and Anna James, 5-9 sophomore guard.

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