Feb. 13, 2003
Tonight the UCSB men's basketball team takes on Pacific who is ranked third in the Big West with a 6-4 conference record and an 11-8 overall record. The Gauchos enter the game after upsetting Utah State and defeating Idaho, both at the Thunderdome. Santa Barbara is 8-3 in the Big West and has moved above .500 with an 11-10 record. The game will be held at Pacific's Alex G. Spanos Center and will be broadcast on KEYT 1250.
UCSB Probable Starting Lineup:
Something has been working well for Santa Barbara during the last several games and it begins with the starting lineup. Junior Jacoby Atako will start at the point where he has been steadily improving throughout Big West play. Atako's scoring average has increased to 4.9 points per game and his rebounds per game have climbed to 2.1. On the defensive end of the floor Atako has accumulated a team high 21 steals and in league play alone he has ripped the ball off 10 times. The wings will be Branduinn Fullove, and Nick Jones. Fullove is leading the team in points per game at 16, which places him fifth in the Big West. He is pulling down 3.4 rebounds per game and has a stellar shooting percentage of .495. Additionally, during conference play Fullove has been deadly from the free throw line, connecting on 42-of-50 free throws. Jones is averaging a third best 12.5 points per game and has dropped to second on the team in rebounds per game at 4.9. Although he has been cooling off lately, he is still a marksman from outside owning a 41% three-point shooting percentage. On the blocks for UCSB will be Mark Hull and Casey Cook. Hull is second on the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game and has recently moved into second place on Santa Barbara's all-time scoring list. He is the team's leading rebounder, pulling down 5.1 rebounds per game, and is drilling 45% of his three-point shots. Cook has been up and down for the Gauchos lately, sometimes showing a significant presence and sometimes falling into obscurity as Bryan Whitehead takes his minutes. On the season Cook is averaging 5.3 points per game and during Big West play that number increases to 6.0 points per game. He is pulling down 4.4 rebounds per game in conference play and has connected on 21 of his 50 shots. However, Whitehead has snatched the spotlight down low lately by ripping down 18 rebounds in two games. Against Utah State, he had one of his best games of the season grabbing a team and career high 11 rebounds.
Pacific Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the backcourt for the Tigers will likely be Demetrius Jackson and Miah Davis. Jackson is the lone Tiger who has started every game this season and he leads the team in scoring at 16 points per game. He is shooting 43% from the floor on 101-of-231 shots. Jackson has drilled 40-of-100 three pointers as well and is lethal from the free throw line, connecting on almost 84% of his free throws. Davis leads the team in minutes averaging 33.5 per game and he is scoring just about 10 points per a contest. He too is outstanding from the free throw line having connected on 45 of 52 free throws. Davis leads the team in assists with 54 on the season and he has picked up 17 steals as well. The forwards for the Tigers will be Christian Maraker and Tom Cockle. Maraker is second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game and he leads the team with a .470 field goal percentage. Maraker also leads the team in rebounding by pulling down 6.3 boards per game. Cockle ranks fifth on the team in scoring at 6.8 points per game. He is second on the team in field goal percentage at 45% and is grabbing 2.8 rebounds per contest. At the center position for Pacific will be Tim Johnson. Johnson is averaging 3.8 points per game and leads the team with 15 blocks.
Scouting the Tigers:
Pacific has two legitimate scoring threats in Demetrius Jackson and Christian Maraker. Jackson will penetrate, get to the line, and shoot from outside, while Maraker will take the ball down low and shoot the occasional three when he is open. Aside from those two, it can really be anybody on any given night that ends up contributing for the Tigers. On occasion it is Miah Davis or Matt Kemper, and sometimes it is Tom Cockle lighting it up from downtown. Jacko Korajkic also has the ability to get hot and do some significant scoring for Pacific. The Gauchos will have to defend Jackson, Davis and Cockle outside. All three have demonstrated the ability to shoot the rock from downtown. Inside, Maraker is the main option so Hull and Cook will have to try and keep him off the boards and out of the lane. At the same time as you never really know which Tigers will show up to score, you never really know which Pacific team will come to play as a whole. During a period between December and January, the Tigers won seven straight games, however, during their last seven games, Pacific has dropped four. They definitely appear streaky having posted winning streaks of seven and three while also recording two losing streaks of three. Either they're hot or they're not and that's all there really is to it. Regardless, the defense of the Gauchos will have to be on its game if they want to leave Stockton with a victory. As is the case in most of the Santa Barbara victories, defense will dictate the flow of the game, offense will come secondarily, and if the D is strong, another victory is within grasp.
Scouting the Gauchos:
It looks simple as an outsider. Santa Barbara is small, they should shoot a lot of threes and they should have trouble rebounding. But be forewarned, UCSB is anything but typical of their size. The Gauchos are matching their opponents on the boards, pulling down 30 a game. Despite only having everyday players that are no taller then 6'8", Santa Barbara manages to come away with a rebounding margin of just -0.5. Clearly UCSB plays with an intensity that is hard to match and they execute the fundamental box out down low. When it comes to shooting the ball, indeed Santa Barbara is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the Big West, however, recently the Gauchos have been doing a majority of their scoring from inside the arc. Fullove is a prime example of this trend as he has cooled off from three-point range but increased his scoring average in doing so. The mid-range jumpers have been falling for the Gauchos and ball is being moved around extremely well. This tends to result in good shots that fall with consistency. Granted, the rims were not kind against Long Beach and Idaho, but Santa Barbara has been able to win six of the last seven, so obviously the shots have been going down enough. Against Pacific, the Gauchos will continue to work the ball on offense and get open shots, nothing new there. Additionally, the Gauchos will come out playing a swarming type of defense that will inevitably throw the Tigers off course. Santa Barbara's defensive mentality took a turn for the better when the Gauchos began conference play, and nobody has looked back since. The guards will pressure the ball and every time the forwards get touches, somebody will be there to double down. This is where Santa Barbara capitalizes as the big men in the Big West have not turned out to be very great passers. Atako and Fullove, or one of the super subs, Cecil Brown and Josh Davis, will get their hands on the ball, creating havoc for opponents and causing turnovers. This inevitably ignites a deadly fast break that results inlay-ups and transition three-point bombs.
For the first time in a long time, the key match-up for the game will come in the backcourt. Jacoby Atako will have the challenge of taking on Pacific's leading scorer, Demetrius Jackson. Jackson gets the job done on the offensive end for the Tigers where he averages 16 points per game and connects on 40% of his three-point shots. He also has a knack for getting into the lane and drawing fouls. At the foul line he is superb, netting 84% of his freebies. It will be up to Atako to keep Jackson in check tonight. If he contains Pacific's star guard throughout the contest, Pacific will have to rely on scoring from somewhere else, and this will put the Gauchos in a very good position.
What to look for:
Look for the Gauchos to play much better then they did against Idaho last week at the Thunderdome. In all honesty, Santa Barbara was lucky its defense showed up against the Vandals as nothing seemed to be going in on the offensive end. Had Idaho not shot as poorly as the UCSB defense forced them too, the Gauchos would have again fallen under .500. Tonight should be a different story offensively, the shots should fall and the Gauchos should be able to put more the 60 points on the scoreboard. If that happens and if Santa Barbara plays defense like they have been since conference play began, UCSB will remain atop the Big West. Look for Fullove to get his shots and don't be surprised if Hull comes out hot after a dismal performance against Idaho. If UCSB really wants a bid to the NCAA tournament, now is the time to step up and show the Big West what Santa Barbara basketball is all about.