The Lady Bears basketball team closes out 2012 with their fifth appearance all-time in the state of California. St. Joseph's (4-5) looks to cross the .500 mark for the first time this season, leveling their record with a three game winning streak earlier this month, but dropping two of their last three.
St. Joseph's opens against University of California Santa Cruz (8-3) on Friday at 10:30 p.m. (eastern) in a neutral site game at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The second meeting between the Association of Division III Independents foes – Santa Cruz won 71-58 in 2006 – could have potential implications for the lone Pool B bid to the NCAA Tournament, which both teams are vying for and St. Joseph's earned last year in their first year as a full NCAA member.
On Saturday, the Lady Bears will head back east to Los Angeles county to square off against Pomona-Pitzer Colleges (0-7) of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with an 8 p.m. (eastern) tip-off.
The Lady Bears are 3-8 all-time playing in the Golden State but have split in their last two trips – the LaSierra Holiday Tournament (Dec. 2007) and Whittier Poets Classic (Jan. 2010). The Lady Bears will also have to deal with the much taller squads – both Banana Slugs and Sagehens sporting three six-footers on their rosters – as experienced in last year's Pacific Northwest trip over Thanksgiving break.
St. Joseph's is led by sophomore Samantha Retas who averages nearly a double-double posting 15.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a clip while shooting nearly 50 percent (49.1). Retas has scored 20-plus points in each of the last three outings and recorded three of her five double-doubles, which places her ranked in the top 50 in the Division III.
Averaging 11.0 points over the last five games and knocking down 13 three-pointers at a 42 percent connect rate, senior Teresa Mangan has elevated to second in scoring (9.0 ppg). Mangan also leads the team in assists (3.8 apg) and ranks 37th in Division III in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.94). Junior Kelly McNamee chips in 8.0 points a game.
After returning back to New York, the Lady Bears will open the new year with five straight games in Brooklyn, including the highly anticipated game at the Barclays Center on Saturday, January 5th.
Live stats and video will be available for both games via www.SJCBears.com along with Twitter updates on @SJCBears
About UC Santa Cruz
After finishing with a 12-13 record last season, Santa Cruz has raced out to an 8-3 record and currently ride a four-game winning streak.
The Banana Slugs are led by sophomore Sarah Mackey who leads the team in scoring (13.6 ppg) connecting at a 50 percent rate (56-of-122) while also pulling down a team-leading 6.5 caroms per game. The six-foot forward will look to wreak havoc on the Lady Bears inside, her 3.6 blocks per game ranks 7th in Division III and she has recorded at least one rejection in every game played and swatted away four-or-more in six games this season.
Junior Ryane Ortiz also averages double figures with 11.7 points per game and is a perimeter threat draining 17 three-pointers this season at a 31 percent connect rate.
The Banana Slugs do well to protect the rock committing 16.0 turnovers per game (40th in Division III) and are opportunistic from the free-throw line connecting on 71 percent of their attempts, Ortiz an 80 percent shooter and Mackey 76 percent from the stripe.
Santa Cruz, located five hours north near San Jose, will play three games on their Southern California swing, also playing Emmanuel College (Mass.) and California Lutheran University after their tilt against the Lady Bears.
The Banana Slug has been the mascot of Santa Cruz for over 25 years, named for the a bright yellow, slimy, shell-less mollusk commonly found on the redwood forest floor. In 2008, ESPN named it one of the 10 best college basketball mascots. More about the Banana Slug here.
The Sagehens seek their first win of the season and will be playing for the sixth time at home in eight games. After dropping a five-point decision to the University of Dallas in their season opener, the Sagehens have suffered double-digit setbacks in their last six outings.
Pomona-Pitzer is a young squad that boasts five freshman and two sophomores and features a balanced attack with six Sagehens averaging 6.0 points or more.
The Sagehens will look to leverage their size advantage with four probable starters listed 5-foot-9 or taller, including a pair of six-footers and another coming off the bench in freshman Jenn Okonkwo who has emerged as the leading scorer averaging 10.6 points per game after missing the first two games of the season.
Not far behind Okonkwo is the backcourt duo of sophomore Ruthie Shapiro and senior Alexis Sones, who average 8.0 and 7.3 points respectively, and both are the team's leading outside threats accounting for nearly three-quarters of their three-point attempts.
Sones, one of only two seniors on the roster, has struggled to find the range to open the season, but is not to be overlooked as she was the Sagehens' leading scorer last season averaging 14.6 points per game and dropped 27 points twice en route to taking home SCIAC Newcomer of the Year honors.
The Sagehens are also very opportunisitic from the free-throw line, ranked 16th as a team in Division III, shooting 75 percent from the stripe.
Pomona-Pitzer is intercollegiate athletics union of Pomona College and Pitzer College, both of the Claremont Colleges System. Pomona College has a rich athletic tradition dating back to 1895 and was a founding member of the SCIAC. Pitzer College joined Pomona College in athletics in 1970 on an interim basis and became permanent in 1972.