Feb. 23, 2000
Santa Barbara, Calif. - There is something about the Cal Poly Mustangs that brings out the best in UC Santa Barbara guard Brandon Payton.
Last month, Payton scored what was then a career-high 27 points as the Gauchos defeated the Mustangs in San Luis Obispo, 87-79. On Wednesday night, Payton was once again on fire, scoring a team-high 21 points as UCSB completed the season-sweep of Cal Poly, winning at the Thunderdome in Santa Barbara, 79-69.
Payton, however, was not alone as a standout for the Gauchos. Redshirt sophomore forward Mike Vukovich, who played well in UCSB's loss at UC Irvine on Saturday, continued that trend by tying his career-high with 13 points in 15 minutes of action. In addition, Vukovich pulled down eight rebounds in the win. Freshman forward Mark Hull had 12 points and tied his career-best with nine rebounds and junior Adama Ndiaye had his fourth double-double of the season with ten points and ten rebounds, despite being limited to 22 minutes due to foul trouble.
Cal Poly scored the first basket of the game on a short jump shot by forward Chris Bjorklund. The 2-0 advantage would be the only lead the Mustangs would experience on the night. Bjorklund, a junior, however, had a standout game, finishing with a game-high 28 points and 13 rebounds. Following his opening bucket, however, UCSB outscored the Mustangs 9-2 to take a 9-4 lead. When Cal Poly's Jason King hit a three-pointer with 11:55 remaining in the first half, the Gaucho lead was narrowed to two points at 11-9.
With the score 11-9, UCSB went on a 10-2 run with Payton and Vukovich each scoring four points. UCSB was up 21-11 before the Mustangs scored seven straight points, including a three-pointer by King, to pull to within three at 21-18 with 5:15 left in the half. The Gauchos closed the first half on a 10-0. Hull hit a layup with 4:21 left and then drilled a 15-foot jumper with 3:39 remaining. In the final 3:12, Payton and Larry Bell made layups and Vukovich drove home a dunk to extend the halftime advantage to 31-18.
After Bell scored on another layup to open the second half, giving Santa Barbara a 33-18 lead, the Mustangs went on a 10-2 surge to pull to within 35-28. Vukovich, however, squelched that comeback by scoring seven straight UCSB points, giving his team a 42-33 lead with 13:31 left in the game. A layup by Chris Bjorklund pulled Cal Poly back to within seven at 40-33 and then it was Payton's turn to take over as he responded to every Mustang challenge. At 13:01 the junior from Oakland hit a jumper from about 12-feet to make the score 44-35 Gauchos. At 11:35, he hit a three-pointer, giving UCSB a 47-37 advantage. With 11:00 left, he canned a layup, was fouled, and made the free throw to give UCSB a 49-40 lead and with 10:21 left in the game, he hit another three-pointer to give the Gauchos a 53-42 edge.
After Payton gave UCSB its 11-point lead with 10:21 left, the margin did not drop below double-digits again until there were only five seconds left. B.J. Ward hit a layup as time ran out to give UCSB its final margin of ten, 79-69.
UCSB outrebounded its Central Coast rival, 53-36. The Mustangs, despite shooting 51.4% in the second half, were limited to only 35.3% from the floor by the Gauchos. UCSB, on the other hand, hit 49.3% of its shots, many from 15-feet in. They were only 3-of-13 from three-point range. UCSB also struggled from the free throw line, making only 10-of-22 charity shots. The Gauchos turned the ball over 15 times as compared to Cal Poly's seven. UCSB did, however, come up with 23 assists. Guard Derrick Allen had another solid effort as he passed off for eight assists and had only one turnover. He also had six rebounds. In his last ten games, Allen has produced 47 assists and only 11 turnovers. Guard Larry Bell had eight points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals.
With the win, UCSB is now 12-12 overall and 8-5 in Big West play. The Gauchos stand in second place in the Big West's Western Division, two and a half games ahead of third place Pacific. UCSB has now won six out of seven games and eight out of ten since opening league play with an 0-3 record. Cal Poly had its three game winning streak snapped and is now 9-16 overall and 4-9 in league.
The Gauchos will return to action on Saturday, February 26 when they travel to Boise State for a 6:00 p.m. (PST) game against the Broncos. UCSB will close the regular season at home next weekend when they host Long Beach State on Thursday, March 2 at 5:00 p.m. and Pacific on Saturday, March 4 at 7:00 p.m. The contest against Western Division-leading Long Beach State will be televised live on Fox Sports Net, including Fox Sports West 2 in Southern California.