Jan. 17, 2004
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Tonight UC Santa Barbara takes on Cal Poly in the first of two meetings between the conference rivals. Santa Barbara enters the game with an overall record of 8-5 and a league mark of 2-2. The Gauchos are tied for fourth place in the Big West with UC Riverside and are one game behind UC Irvine. Cal Poly enters tonight's game with an overall record of 6-6 and a league mark of 1-3. The Mustangs and tied with Cal State Fullerton and Idaho for last place in the Big West. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Cal Poly's Mott Gym and the game will be broadcast on KTMS 990 AM.
UC Santa Barbara Probable Starters
Leading the Gauchos against Cal Poly tonight will be the senior backcourt trio of Jacoby Atako, Nick Jones, and Branduinn Fullove. Atako enters tonight's game with an average of 6.3 points per game and a team-leading 38 assists and 15 steals. His assist to turnover ratio has been better than 2-to-1 over the last four games and he has moved into seventh place all-time on UCSB's career steals and career assists lists. Jones is averaging 7.6 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. He is slowly re-emerging as one of the team's leaders and will need to come ready to play against the Mustangs tonight. Fullove, the recent recipient of ill-mannered remarks made by Poly senior Varnie Dennis, leads the Gauchos with an average of 11 points per game. His average increases to 13.2 points in conference games alone and his rebounds do as well, going from 2.9 to 3.5 per game. Starting on the blocks for the Gauchos will be sophomore Cameron Goettsche and senior Bryan Whitehead. Goettsche will be spot starting for the injured Casey Cook, but he is no newcomer when it comes to being on the floor for the tip. Throughout the pre-season Goettsche made eight starts and is averaging 7.9 points per game. Tonight, his defense will be more important as he will be asked to help shut down Cal Poly's Dennis. Whitehead is averaging 3.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He has grabbed more than three rebounds in every game this season and has had five or more on eight occasions.
Cal Poly Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for the Mustangs will be Kameron Gray and Fernando Sampson. Gray, a 6-foot-1 sophomore transfer from Chabot College, is scoring 13.4 points per game. He is leading the team with 3.5 assists per game and is also pulling down 4.5 rebounds. Sampson, a 6-foot-1 sophomore as well, is averaging 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. On the blocks for Cal Poly will be seniors Shane Schilling and Varnie Dennis, along with junior Nick Enzweiler. Schilling is second on the team with an average of 17.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He is also recording 1.3 blocks per game but is coming off an ankle injury that sidelined him against Long Beach State. Dennis is having a great season thus far, with the exception of his immature public remarks about opposing players. The 6-foot-8 senior is leading the team with 19.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Enzweiler is scoring 7.3 points per game and is second on the team with an average of 2.7 assists per game.
Scouting the Gauchos
The Gauchos have been very hard to understand this year, winning and losing, winning and losing. It seems as though you never know who is going to show up, let alone, which team. When the Gauchos are on, they score, rebound, and defend very well, doing everything they need to do to get victories. But when they're off, it looks like they're just going through the motions and things like the 21-point lead being lost against Long Beach happen. On the season, Santa Barbara is shooting .451 percent from the floor and .394 from behind the thee-point line. Importantly, the Gauchos are holding their opponents to just .431 shooting from field and .330 from outside. UCSB is heating up from the outside as well, increasing the .394 to .436 in conference games alone. Santa Barbara is rebounding well this season, pulling down an average of 34.6 rebounds per game while holding its opponents to 30.3. In conference games, the rebounding margin for the Gauchos increases to 6.2 per game, which will be important tonight as Schilling and Dennis are both very good rebounders. Fullove and Jones will both have to come out strong tonight if Santa Barbara wants to stay with Poly in Mott Gym. Cook is likely out with a leg injury so the scoring will be left up to the backcourt. The bench will be counted on as well as Cecil Brown, Josh Davis, and Joe See will be asked to put the ball in the basket.
Scouting the Mustangs
The thing that Cal Poly does best is score. The Mustangs lead the Big West with a scoring average of 72.8 points per game. Most of this output comes directly from Gray, Dennis, and Schilling. Those three account for 69% of the offense with a combined total of 50.3 points per game. Cal Poly also rebounds well and blocks shots. Poly is second in the league in defensive rebounding with an average of 25.5 per game and is fourth in offensive rebounds with 11.67 per contest. Dennis and Schilling account for most of these rebounds while also leading the team to a conference leading 4.25 blocked shots per game. Where the team seems to be struggling is on the defensive end of the floor. The Mustangs are allowing 71.5 points per game which is just 1.3 less than their 72.8.
Key Match Up
The key match-up tonight will be between seniors Branduinn Fullove and Varnie Dennis. Indeed they probably won't spend any time guarding each other, but after the public remarks this week, both players will come out extra motivated to get the best of the other. Serious amounts of pride are at stake here, not to mention a classic coastal rivalry, and Dennis's comments earlier in the week will have both himself and Fullove ready to get on the floor and settle the score. Whichever player can lead his team to victory will have the upper hand before round two, Saturday, February 14 at Santa Barbara's Thunderdome.
What To Look For
Look for a very intense game between two teams that share a lot of bad blood. The rivalry has been in place for many years now, but with Santa Barbara taking 53-of-80 games between the two, it hasn't been much to look forward to. However, Cal Poly defeated the Gauchos last year during the regular season and then proceeded to knock them out of the conference playoffs. Thus tonight's game will be played between two good teams, and two teams that make a point of raising the intensity level every time the other is in town.