March 1, 2003
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -
On January 30, UC Santa Barbara beat UC Irvine on the road, 70-54.
It wasn't a fluke.
Saturday night, in front of a season-high crowd of 5,014 and with first-place in the Big West on-the-line, the Gauchos routed the Anteaters again, 67-51.
The victory moves UCSB one-half game ahead of UCI and into first-place in the league. The Gauchos, who are now 12-4 in the Big West, also ended the Anteaters season-best seven-game winning streak.
Santa Barbara never trailed in the game as Casey Cook opened the scoring with a free throw. Nick Jones followed with a baseline jumper to make it 3-0 and then Jacoby Atako sliced through the lane for a lay-up high off the glass, making it 5-0 Gauchos with 15:51 remaining in the first half.
After forward Jordan Harris hit a short leaner to cut the lead to 5-2, Jones nailed a three-pointer from straigtaway to start a 12-2 run tha put the Gauchos up 17-4 with 8:01 to go in the half. Guard Ross Schraeder drained a long three-pointer and Harris hit back-to-back two-pointers to pull the Anteaters to whithin 17-11 with just under six minutes to go in the half, but UCSB ended the half with a 21-7 stretch and took a 38-18 lead into the lockerroom.
Jones scored all 16 of his game-high total of 16 in the first half.
Irvine made a couple of surges in the second half, cutting the Gaucho lead to 12 on on three occasions, the last time at 54-42 on a lay-up by center Adam Parada with 6:30 left in the game. The teams were scoreless for the next 2:30, but following a steal, senior forward Mark Hull scored on a breakaway dunk to make it 56-42 with 3:53 to go in the game. After Harris committed a charging foul, junior guard Branduinn Fullove made a three-pointer from the corner to give UCSB a commanding 60-43 lead with 2:39 remaining and the lead never dropped below 15 points the rest of the way.
"I really thought the way we played defensively in the first half took them out of the game," said Gaucho head coach Bob Williams. "I don't know if they had more than a couple open shots in the entire half and that is a credit to our guys. They really stepped-up tonight."
Leading the defensive charge was Atako, who held UCI guard Mike Hood scoreless. Hood entered the game averaging 11.5 points per game in league play, shooting 43.8% from three-point territory. Saturday night, he was 0-for-6 from the floor, missing all three of his three-point attempts.
"Jacoby was outstanding," Williams said. "Hood did not get many open looks and that was because of Jacoby. He did a great job on him down there (in the first game between the teams) and he did another tremendous job tonight."
UCSB also did a great job on Anteater center Adam Parada. Every time he touched the ball, the Gauchos collapsed on him. Cook and Bryan Whitehead, the Gauchos' post players, combined for three points and eight rebounds, but they were instrumental in limiting Parada to six points and six rebounds.
As a team, the Gauchos stifled UCI, holding the Anteaters to 29.8% shooting from the field and 6-of-26 from three-point territory, 23.1%. On the other hand, UCSB made 25-of-51 shots overall, 49.0%, and 7-of-15 from three-point range, 46.7%.
In addition to Jones' game-high 16 points, Fullove added 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and while Jones scored all 16 of his points in the first half, Fullove scored 12 of his in the second half. In his final game at the Thunderdome, Hull finished with 13 points, becoming the second Gaucho ever to eclipse 1,500 points. The second-leading scorer in school history now has 1,501 points. His two three-point baskets extended his school record to 209.
UCI was paced by Harris, who finished with 15 points, and freshman guard Jeff Gloger, who had 13 points and four assists. Gloger, however, made just 1-of-7 shots from the free throw line after entering the game as a 73.8 free throw shooter.
UCSB is now 15-12 overall and 12-4 in the Big West. UCI, which had its seven-game winning streak snapped, drops to 18-8 overall and 12-5 in league. The Gauchos, who now lead the Anteaters by one-half game, need to win one of their final two games next weekend to clinch their first Big West's regular-season title. UCSB will travel to Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night for a 7:00 p.m. game and then to UC Riverside on Saturday night for another 7:00 p.m. game. UCI closes the regular season on Saturday with a home game against Long Beach State.