Jan. 25, 2003
Tonight the UCSB men's basketball team takes on Cal Poly after a convincing victory over Pacific. The win placed Santa Barbara in second place behind UC Irvine and opened the Big West Conference right up. The Gauchos are currently 7-9 overall and 4-2 in conference play while Cal Poly is 7-8 overall and 3-3 in the Big West. Tonight's game will be held in UCSB's Thunderdome and will be broadcast on KEYT 1250.
UCSB Probable Starting Lineup:
Five starters for Santa Barbara are coming together as quite an impressive group while league play advances. The combination of Jacoby Atako, Nick Jones, Branduinn Fullove, Mark Hull and Casey Cook appears to be the best combination that Coach Williams can put on the floor to start a game. Atako will start at the point for Santa Barbara, where his play has improved as the season wears on. His scoring average has improved to 4.5 points per game and he has been playing superb defense. Additionally, he leads the team with 56 assists and has drilled 17 of 22 free throws. Aside Atako in the backcourt will be Fullove and Jones. Fullove is UCSB's leading scorer averaging 15.1 points per game. Last week he was named Big West Player of the Week after scoring 32 points in two games and pulling down 15 rebounds. Jones on the other hand has cooled off a bit after an impressive preseason. He is still one of three Gauchos averaging double digits in scoring on the season with 13.1 points per game and he is leading the team in rebounding by grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game. Of the 16 games this season, Jones has scored in double digits 13 times and has hit a three-pointer in 14 of the 16 games. Down low for Santa Barbara will be Hull and Cook. Hull has come on during Big West Conference play averaging a team high 16.2 points per league game. With 16 points Hull will move into fourth place on UCSB's all-time scoring list. Additionally, he is second all-time in three point baskets made in school history. Cook is playing very well for the Gauchos right now as well. In the last four games he has made 13 of 17 shots and has made 11 of 15 free throws.
Cal Poly Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the backcourt for the Mustangs will be junior guard Eric Jackson and senior guard Jason Allen. Allen is the only player for Cal Poly who has started and played in every single game this season. He is averaging 10.9 points per game and is leading the team in assists, dishing out 2.6 per contest. Jackson is bringing in only 4.2 points per game and this is due in large part to his shooting percentages. From the field Jackson is shooting 36%, from the three-point line he is making 22% and from the free throw line he has connected on 28% of his attempts. The starting forwards for the Mustangs will be juniors Shane Shilling and Varnie Dennis. Schilling is second on the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game and he is grabbing 4.7 rebounds. Dennis appears to be the man for Cal Poly. He is leading the team in numerous statistical categories including points, rebounds, blocks, and minutes. He is scoring 16.9 points per game and his 2.4 blocks per game ranks him No. 24 in the nation. At the center position for Cal Poly will be Phil Johnson. Johnson has only started two games this season and is averaging 6.1 points per game and 3.4 rebounds.
Scouting the Mustangs:
Cal Poly enters tonight's game sitting directly in the middle of the Big West with a 3-3 record. They have struggled on the road this season going 1-4 and they have dropped three of their last four games. Compared to UCSB, Poly has a higher scoring average this season, however, they have a lower field goal percentage, lower three-point percentage and lower free throw percentage. The Mustangs are clearly led by Dennis. He plays most of his game down low where he scores, gets to the free throw line, rebounds and blocks shots. However, he has hit 41% of his three-pointers too, so whoever is guarding him needs to be prepared to follow him out to the arc. Aside from Dennis, the only other scoring threats are be Shilling and Allen. Santa Barbara needs to keep Allen off the free throw line where he has connected on an impressive 89% of his free throws. Allen seems to be the only other three-point threat for the Mustangs as well. Aside from Dennis he is the only other starter to shoot above 30% from the outside. Good news for the Gauchos, the Mustangs are 1-7 when trailing at the half. It has been a trend for Santa Barbara to jump out early and if this happens, UCSB will likely pull away with a victory.
Scouting the Gauchos:
Things are coming together for Santa Barbara on the offensive and the defensive end of the court. Mark Hull has been hot in conference play scoring 16 points per game and ripping down four boards. Fullove is heating up as well with his 12.8 points and his team high 4.8 rebounds. Fullove's three-point percentage has been way down after going 3-19 to start conference play. This is actually a good thing for the Gauchos though as it shows that they can win without him firing away from downtown and additionally, he is bound to get hot. Once the threes start falling, Fullove's scoring percentage will increase dramatically and Santa Barbara will be off to the races. Casey Cook has been playing well since league play started. He has scored in double figures three times in the last four games and his minutes keep increasing. Further, his tenacity on the glass has much improved as he is grabbing 4.7 rebounds per game in Big West play. Also, some of the bench players for Santa Barbara have been contributing including Josh Davis and Chrismen Oliver. Davis has made some exceptional plays on the defensive end of the ball and he is getting a feel for the offense. Oliver is turning into a little spark plug on offense. He is reliable with the ball and he always seems to make something happen when he has the ball.
The key match-up tonight will be the rotation against Varnie Dennis. It is really up in the air as to who will guard Dennis, Coach Williams always seems to have something creative up his sleeve. Likely Hull will start on Dennis, he is the only one tall and mobile enough to guard him all over the court. But likely Josh Davis and some other Gauchos off the bench will see some time on him. If Santa Barbara can play defense as well as they did against Pacific, and take Dennis out of the game, it will be over before the start of the second half.
What to look for:
Look for Santa Barbara to jump out to an early lead as they usually do in the Thunderdome. Don't be surprised to see Hull catch fire early like he has in the past couple games. He knows that he is 16 points from reaching the 1,400-point scoring plateau and he wants to get that out of the way. Aside from that, look for UCSB to come out intense on the defensive end. After such an outstanding performance against Pacific, Santa Barbara appears to have found the right combinations defensively and they are playing their tails off down here.