Feb. 14, 2004
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Tonight UC Santa Barbara takes on coastal rival Cal Poly in a Valentine's Day Big West match-up. The Gauchos enter the game with an overall record of 12-8, and a Big West mark of 6-5. Santa Barbara is currently in third place in the conference, followed closely by Idaho and Cal State Northridge. Cal Poly travels to Santa Barbara with an overall record of 8-11, and a Big West mark of 3-8. The Mustangs are in last place in the conference. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. in UCSB's Thunderdome, and the game will be broadcast on KTLK 1340 AM.
UC Santa Barbara Probable Starters
Coach Williams shook up the starting rotation during the recent trip to Idaho and Utah State, starting guard Joe See ahead of Jacoby Atako. Either player could run the point tonight, depending on the tone of the game. Atako is averaging 5.6 points per outing and has dished out a team-high 47 assists, however, he earns his minutes by consistently providing stellar defense against opposing guards. Last year's Big West Defensive Player of the Year, Atako shut down Poly guard Kameron Gray during the last meeting between the two, leading the Gauchos to a 78-59 victory. Sophomore Joe See is quite the opposite of Atako, earning his minutes via his scoring touch. See is third on the team in points per game, 8.1, and he leads the three-point barrage by a long shot, having connected on 38-86 threes on the season. His three-point percentage of 44.2 is tops in the Big West. The other guards will be seniors Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones. Fullove is tied for the team-lead in scoring with an average of 9.9 points per game. He is pulling down 3.1 rebounds and has passed off for 34 assists. Jones has been a question mark offensively for the Gauchos, having missed his last 16 shot attempts from the two-point range. He did score nine points in last week's loss to Utah State, but they all came from buckets made from beyond the arc. Starting on the blocks for UCSB will be Cameron Goettsche and Bryan Whitehead. Goettsche has turned himself into an offensive weapon, aside from his spectacular athletic ability, as league play has worn on. He has scored in double figures in seven of the last ten games and is averaging 7.9 points per contest. Goettsche is shooting just below 50% from the floor and was instrumental in the victory over Cal Poly the last time the teams met. In that game, he led the Gauchos with 15 points and held league-leading Varnie Dennis to just ten. Whitehead keeps doing his thing under the basket, rebounding and taking the occasional shot. He is averaging 4.9 boards per game and is chipping in 4.3 points as well.
Cal Poly Probable Starters
Staring in the backcourt for Cal Poly will be 6-foot-1 sophomores, Kameron Gray and Fernando Sampson. Gray, one of two Mustangs to start every game this year, is averaging 13 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. He leads the team with 3.4 assists per game as well, and has a team-high 43 steals on the season. Sampson, likely making just his ninth start of the season, is averaging just less than two points and two rebounds per game. Not much of a threat from the floor, he is shooing 29% overall and 23% from behind the arc. The forwards for Poly will be seniors Shane Schilling and Varnie Dennis, along with junior Nick Enzweiler. Schilling is second on the team (third in the Big West) in scoring with an average of 16.6 points per game. He is also second on the team in rebounding with 5.6 boards per game and is tied with Dennis for the team-lead in blocks with 19. Dennis, the Big West's leading scorer, is averaging 18.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He has connected on 49% of his shots from the floor and is consistent from the free throw line where his percentage moves to 80%. Enzweiler is scoring 7.5 points per game and pulls down 3.2 rebounds as well. He is second on the team with an average of 2.7 assists per contest.
Scouting the Gauchos
It has become impossible to perform the function of scouting the Gauchos as this 2003-04 season carries on. UC Santa Barbara is one of the most unpredictable teams in the Big West this season, and tonight will be no different. UCSB has the talent and firepower to put up good numbers offensively. The Gauchos lead the Big West in three-point field goal percentage at 40.1%, and sophomore Joe See leads the way connecting on 44.2% of his shots from behind the arc. Santa Barbara is third in scoring margin at +4.4 and is also third in field goal percentage, 44.6%. However, some nights UCSB just doesn't have it. Defensively, the Gauchos have been a bit more consistent, holding teams to a second-best 59.9 points per game. Yet again, you never know which team is going to show up. The area that has been the best for Santa Barbara has been rebounding where UCSB is pulling down 6.8 more rebounds per game than it's opponents, tops in the conference. The Gauchos are only allowing opposing teams to grab 27.8 boards per game, again leading the Big West.
Scouting the Mustangs
Contrary to scouting the Gauchos, scouting Cal Poly is quite easy this season. Seniors Varnie Dennis and Shane Schilling can score, and they will every time they have the opportunity to. Kameron Gray is very good offensively as well and the role players all contribute in their own ways too. Poly is leading the Big West in scoring offense with an average of 72.4 points per game. The Mustangs are second in three-point field goals made per game, 6.24, and their 14.65 assists per game are second to Utah State as well. However, CP does a poor job on the other end of the floor, ranking last in the Big West in scoring defense, allowing 73.2 points per game. The Mustangs do not defend well and it shows as they bring up the rear in the conference, despite having two of the top three scorers. The old adage notes that defense wins championships, and this year, Poly has helped prove that true. CP is struggling on the boards as well, allowing a league-worst 38.3 defensive rebounds per game. The -4.2 rebounding margin the Mustangs maintain is ninth in the league.
The key match-up in tonight's game will be between the forwards for both squads. Dennis and Schilling account for 34.8 points per game, almost half of Cal Poly's total output offensively. Both have well developed offensive games, capable of playing with their backs to the basket and facing up, and both make their free throws. It will be up to the Gaucho combination of Goettsche, Whitehead, Casey Cook, and Bray Skultety to limit the looks these two forces have and keep them off the boards as well as possible.
What To Look For
Look for the traditional rival game between UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. Every year the battles get more intense, including this year as verbal jabs were thrown prior to the first meeting of the two coastal foes. A packed Thunderdome and identical two game losing streaks-not to mention bragging rights-will undoubtedly provide for an impressive atmosphere tonight in Santa Barbara.