Tonight's Game: UC Santa Barbara vs. UC Irvine
March 4, 2004
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Tonight UC Santa Barbara takes on UC Irvine in the first of two final league games. Santa Barbara (14-11 overall, 8-8 in the Big West) needs to win one of the remaining two games in order to clinch a first-round bye in the conference tournament. UCI enters tonight's game with an overall record of 11-15 and a league mark of 6-10. The Anteaters need to win at least one game this weekend in order to get into the season ending tournament. Tip-off for tonight's game is scheduled for 7:00 PM. The game will be broadcast of KTLK 1340 AM and will also be shown on College Sports Television (CSTV).
UC Santa Barbara Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for the Gauchos will be seniors Jacoby Atako and Branduinn Fullove, along with sophomore Cecil Brown. Atako, in congruence with his roller coaster of the year, is on one of the upswings as of late. He is averaging 6.2 points and 2.4 assists per game overall, but in the last four games, his numbers rise to 10.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per contest. Additionally, Atako has connected on 13-of-23 shots from the floor, 56.5%, and 6-of-12 three-pointers, 50% during his four-game hot streak. Fullove has begun to heat up as well, taking over the team lead in points per game while filling up the other statistical categories that make him the complete player he is. Fullove has scored in double figures five games in a row and over the course, he has averaged 13.8 points per contest. His season average is 10.9 points per game. Brown has worked his way into the starting lineup by being one of the only consistent players for Coach Williams all season. Although the Gauchos love his intensity coming off the bench, his double figure efforts have moved him into the tip-off rotation. In last week's games, he scored a career-high 17 points and then followed that up with a 15-point performance, boosting his season average to 8.0 points per game. Starting on the blocks for Santa Barbara will be junior Casey Cook and sophomore Cameron Goettsche. Cook has probably been the most consistent Gauchos so far this season, averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. He has scored 29 points in the last two games, recording back-to-back double-figure outings for the first time since UCLA and Kansas. Goettsche fractured his thumb in a victory over Cal Poly and has been playing hurt since. In his first outing with the injury, he scored a career-high 18 points, leading the Gauchos to a double-overtime victory over Cal State Fullerton. The following Saturday, it looked as though the pain may have gotten to him, as he went 1-for-6 from the floor and finished with just two points in the loss to UC Riverside.
UC Irvine Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for UC Irvine will be sophomores Jeff Gloger and Ross Schraeder. Gloger is having an excellent season at the point guard position where he is averaging 9.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 2.2 steals per game. He ranks second in the league in assists and third in steals. Schraeder, nominated for Big West Player of the Week honors last week, is averaging 7.3 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. He connected on ten three-point baskets in two games last week, scoring a career-high 27 points in a victory over Idaho. He followed that performance up with a 20-point game against Utah State. The starting forwards for UCI will be Matt Okoro and Greg Ethington. Okoro, a 6-foot-7 senior, is averaging 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Ethington, a 6-foot-8 junior, is averaging 6.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Starting in the middle for the Anteaters will be senior Adam Parada. The 7-footer is scoring 12.6 points per game while pulling down 6.7 rebounds as well. He is second in the league in field goal percentage at 61% and leads the league in blocks per game with 1.38.
Scouting the Gauchos
Despite losing five of its last seven games, UCSB may be poised to peak going into the crucial Big West Tournament. Senior leader Branduinn Fullove is doing everything well, solidifying his position as the team's leading scorer while increasing his rebounding and assists totals as well. Atako is coming on, picking up his scoring efforts and guiding the team defensively. Goettsche, though hurt, is making an impact, as is Cook. What will remain important as the team moves into post-season play will be the continued contribution of the leaders, and importantly, the abilities of the role players. The Gauchos lost one of their favorites when Bray Skultety went down a second time, so it is now up to players like Brown, Josh Davis, Joe See, and Bryan Whitehead, to add spark coming off the bench and help the leaders win with whatever it is they do best. Offensively, UC Santa Barbara leads the Big West in three-point percentage, so teams must come to the Thunderdome prepared to contest the three-point shot. Defensively, Santa Barbara is third in field goal percentage defense and second in steals, thus an adequate job is being done on that end of the floor. Where the Gauchos have really shined this season has been on the glass. The team ranks second in the Big West in rebounding and third in both rebounding margin and opponent rebounds.
Scouting the Anteaters
It is safe to say that it has been a bit of an off year for UCI, but the Anteaters still have an opportunity to earn a birth in the Big West Tournament. Irvine ranks second in the league in field goal percentage at 46%, but is eighth in scoring offense, averaging 64 points per game. The Anteaters do a good job of keeping their opponents off the glass, ranking second in the league in opponent rebounds, but they struggle rebounding themselves, placing seventh in team rebounding. Defensively, UCI is fifth in scoring defense and ninth in three-point field goal percentage defense. Individually, Parada needs to be paid attention to by the Gauchos. He stands 7-feet tall and has a legitimate inside game. Gloger will be the other starter that must be keyed upon, though as of the last two games, Schraeder has proven that he must be accounted for as well. Off the bench, Stanislav Zuzak is impressive, averaging 10.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. One thing that has hurt UC Irvine recently has been the suspension of guard Mike Efevberha. Efevberha was averaging 11.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, prior to Coach Douglass sitting him down for a violation of team and department rules.
The key match-up in tonight's game will be between UC Irvine's Jeff Gloger and UC Santa Barbara's Jacoby Atako. Gloger is the engine that makes Irvine run, both offensively and defensively. Despite being just a sophomore, he has developed into one of the best point guards in the league, and it will be up to Atako to limit his productivity. Additionally, Atako has come alive offensively during the last couple games, so Gloger will have his hands full on the defensive end of the floor as well.
What To Look For
Look for a battle tonight in the Thunderdome. UC Santa Barbara needs a win to clinch at least a fourth place finish in league play, which would earn the Gauchos a first-round bye in the Big West Tournament. Conversely, UC Irvine needs a win to make it into the conference tournament. Both teams need victories and it is certain that both will come out prepared to earn just that.