Feb. 6, 2003
Santa Barbara, Calif - Last time Santa Barbara played Utah State, 10,000 people harassed Branduinn Fullove every time he touched the ball. Tonight he got his revenge.
In what was the most important game so far this season, the Gauchos handed Fullove the ball and let him go to work. Santa Barbara came away with a 62-50 victory pushing them into a first place tie with Utah State, and Fullove got the last laugh.
The first time they met, UCSB suffered a demoralizing loss to the Aggies up in Utah, and Fullove had one of the worst games of his career. He finished with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting and was antagonized by the Utah fans every time he got near the ball. Tonight, Fullove made it all ok, going 9 for 13 from the floor and finishing with a game high 21 points.
With 3:46 to go in the first half, Desmond Penigar, the Utah State standout, scored his first bucket, a jump shot from the baseline. Fortunately, this would be the only time that Penigar found the bottom of the net during the entire game. The Gauchos had his number all night, shifting players around trying to keep him under control. He finished with two points on 1-of-9 shooting and an obscene gesture towards the crowd.
In the closing minutes of the half Mark Hull hit a three-pointer to move the score to 32-27, Fullove followed it up with a bucket of his own. Then with 0.1 seconds left on the clock, Spencer Nelson was fouled by Bryan Whitehead and sent to the line. Nelson connected on only one of the free throws and the teams went to the locker room with UCSB leading 34-28.
Six points in the first half put Fullove over the 1,000-point mark. He is just the 20th Gaucho with one thousand points in his career.
As the teams came out for the second half, something fired Fullove up. Maybe it was the fact that during the last game against Utah State, he got tangled up with Desmond Penigar on the floor, and appeared to kick his way out of the mess, only to have 10,000 people verbally harass him every time he touched the ball. Or maybe it was knowing that he had just surpassed 1,000 points. Either way, he emerged from the locker room and scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, burying the Aggies along the way.
Santa Barbara began to mount a lead right as the half began. A basket by Nick Jones followed by a Hull three-pointer and two layups, one by Whitehead and one by Hull, extended the lead to 45-32.
However, the Aggies held tough and came up with a run of their own. Utah State held Santa Barbara at 45 points for 6:11 and cut the lead to 45-42. Spencer Nelson was instrumental in the Aggie comeback hitting a free throw and a layup. Nelson finished as Utah State's leading scorer with 16 points on 5-9 shooting. He also connected on 6-of-9 free throws.
After the Aggies pulled within three, the Gauchos caught fire. Fullove lead the scoring charge and Bryan Whitehead cleaned off the glass. During the last eight minutes of the game Fullove scored 12 points including two three pointers.
With 7:56 left in the game Fullove got open on the wing and Chrismen Oliver delivered the ball, naturally, he drained the three. On the next possession Fullove again found himself alone but this time he drilled a jumper from the middle of the key. After committing a foul on the other end of the floor, Fullove landed outside the three-point line again, and following Oliver's fourth assist, he sunk his second trey. This put the Gauchos up 55-44.
No other Gaucho scored again until 2:57 left in the game when guess who, Fullove knocked down his third three-pointer of the game.
"I just let it come to me tonight, Chrismen got me open for a couple shots and fortunately they went down." Commented Fullove, "It was nice to have them (Utah State) in here and send them away like that." On the difference between this game and the game up in Logan, Utah, Fullove noted, "It definitely helped not having 10,000 people screaming in my face every time I touched the ball."
The game ended with Fullove knocking down a high arching jumper just inches inside the three-point line. This time 3,000 fans were screaming, but in the Thunderdome, that is music to Fullove's ears.
On the game, Santa Barbara held Utah State to 41% shooting from the floor and 54% from the line. Additionally, UCSB equaled Utah State's total of 31 rebounds.
The victory improves UCSB's record to 10-10 overall and 7-3 in league. Next up for the Gauchos is Idaho, Saturday night at 7:00 in UCSB's Thunderdome