Men's Basketball Travels To Cal State Fullerton & UC Riverside In Search Of Big West Regular Season Championship, Top-Seed In Tournament

Men's Basketball Travels To Cal State Fullerton & UC Riverside In Search Of Big West Regular Season Championship, Top-Seed In Tournament

March 5, 2003

The Schedule
Game No. 28
Big West Game No. 17
Thursday, March 6, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. (PST)

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Cal State Fullerton Titans at CSUF's Titan Gym

Game No. 29
Big West Game No. 16
Saturday, March 8, 2003 at 7:10 p.m. (PST)

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at UC Riverside Highlanders at UCR's Student Recreation Center

UCSB Goes On The Road Hoping To Secure Regular Season Championship
UC Santa Barbara will hit the road for its final two regular season games this weekend. The Gauchos, in need of one victory to clinch at least a tie for the 2002-03 Big West regular season championship, play at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, March 6 at 7:00 p.m., and then they travel to UC Riverside to complete the regular season schedule at 7:10 p.m. on Saturday, March 8. UCSB enters the week with a one-half game lead on UC Irvine, which has one game remaining on its schedule, a home game against Long Beach State. With one win, the Gauchos would clinch the Big West Tournament's top-seed. UCSB (12-4) owns the tiebreaker with both UC Irvine (12-5) and third-place Utah State (10-6).

Regular Season Crown Would Be A Gaucho First
If UCSB can win one of its final two games, it would clinch at least a share of the Big West regular season championship. With the tiebreaker over second-place UC Irvine, the Gauchos would receive the number one seed in next week's Big West Tournament. The regular season crown would be UCSB's first ever in a non-divisional format. In 1992, the Gauchos finished second in the Big West, but they were the top-seed in the league tournament because UNLV was ineligible for NCAA play. In 1999, Bob Williams' first season in Santa Barbara, his team won the Big West's Western Division title. Last year, the Gauchos won their first Big West Tournament title ever, advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990.

Gauchos Get Defensive In First-Place Showdown With UC Irvine
UCSB used a stifling defense and an efficient offense on Saturday night to post a decisive 67-51 win over UC Irvine in a game that could go a long way towards deciding the Big West regular season champion and the Big West Tournament's number one seed. The Gauchos jumped out to a 17-4 lead in the first half, took a 38-18 lead into halftime and then turned back every Anteater rally in the second half to post their second consecutive win. The 16-point margin matched UCSB's margin of victory in the first game between the two schools. The Gauchos limited UCI to 29.8% shooting from the field, including 23.1% from three-point range. On the other side of the court, UCSB shot 49.0% and was led by junior guards Nick Jones and Branduinn Fullove who had 16 and 15 points respectively. Fullove also tied season-highs with eight rebounds and six assists. Senior forward Mark Hull, playing the final home game of his career, scored 13 points and became the second player in UCSB history to move past the 1,500 point barrier.

The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara enters Thursday's game at Cal State Fullerton with an overall record of 15-12 and a league mark of 12-4. The Gauchos have won two games in row and they have moved into first-place in the Big West Conference, one-half game ahead of UC Irvine. Since opening the year with a 3-7 record, UCSB has gone 12-5. Also, since opening the Big West season with a 2-2 record, the Gauchos have gone 10-2 in league, including six wins in their last seven Big West games. UCSB's current 12-4 record matches the league record posted by Bob Williams' first Gaucho team in 1998-99. The most Big West victories ever posted by a UCSB team is 13. The Gauchos have won 13 league games three times, the last time coming in 1991-92.

The Williams File
Bob Williams is in his fifth season as the head coach at UC Santa Barbara. Last year, he guided the Gauchos to a 20-11 overall record and an 11-7 mark in Big West Conference play. It was the school's first 20-win season since 1992. Most importantly, however, Williams led UCSB to its first Big West Conference Tournament Championship ever and first NCAA Tournament appearance in 12 years. In his first four-plus seasons in Santa Barbara, Williams' teams have posted a 77-65 overall record and a 54-28 record in Big West games. In 1998-99, his first year, the Gauchos went 15-13 overall and 12-4 in the Big West, winning the league's Western Division championship. That year, they closed the campaign by going 15-5 and Williams was selected Big West Coach of the Year. Prior to his arrival at UCSB, he spent eight years at UC Davis and in those eight years, his teams recorded 20 or more wins five times and a 158-76 record. In each of his last four seasons, the Aggies advanced to the NCAA Tournament and in 1997-98, Williams' final season, they went 31-2, won the NCAA Division II National Championship and he was named NABC Division II Coach of the Year. Including two seasons at Menlo College, Williams has a record of 266-165 at four-year schools.

Possible Starters - Notes
G - Jacoby Atako - He has had at least one steal in nine straight games, producing 19 over that span.
G - Nick Jones - Scored all 16 of his points against UC Irvine in the first half.
G - Branduinn Fullove - Tied season-highs with eight rebounds and six assists vs. UC Irvine.
F - Mark Hull - In final home game, he became second Gaucho to score 1,500 points. Now has 1,501.
F - Casey Cook - Pulled-down six rebounds in each of the last two games.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - B.J. Ward - Played three minutes vs. Detroit, his first action in three games.
G - Chrismen Oliver - Has made eight of his last 16 three-point attempts, 50.0%.
G - Cecil Brown - Has made at least one three-point basket in each of the last three games.
G - Josh Davis - He has shot 50.0% over the last 11 games, 19-of-38.
F - Bray Skultety - Torn ACL in left knee will sideline him for the season.
F - Bryan Whitehead - Averaging 6.0 rebounds in the last eight games.
F - Scott Rainey - Has played in 17 of 27 games on the season.
F - Derek Wheeler - Made his first field goal as a Gaucho in win over UC Irvine.

UCSB Defense Returns From Vacation
In back-to-back losses the previous weekend, UCSB's opponents, the University of Detroit Mercy and Cal Poly, made 50-of-86 shots from the field, 58.1%. In the second of the two defeats, Detroit Mercy shot 60.0%, the highest mark of the year against the Gauchos. This past weekend, in wins over Long Beach State and UC Irvine, the UCSB defense returned to form. In Thursday's win over Long Beach State, the Gauchos limited the 49ers to 17-of-45 from the field, 37.8%, and in Saturday's key win over UC Irvine, they held the Anteaters to a season-low 17-of-57 shooting from the field, 29.8%. The 29.8% was the second-best defensive effort of the year for UCSB, bettered only the 29.3% that USF shot on November 30. Combined, UCI and LBSU made just 34-of-102 shots, 33.3%.

More Defense Of The Gauchos
With the weekend's stellar defensive efforts, UCSB is now allowing opponents to shoot 41.5% overall and an even more impressive and league-leading 39.9% in Big West games. Even with Cal Poly's 56.1% mark last Thursday, Big West opponents are making just 40.9% of their shots against the Gauchos. UCSB has held five of its last eight opponents below 40.0% shooting. Overall, 13 of UCSB's 27 opponents have shot below the 40.0% barrier, including ten of 16 Big West opponents. The Gauchos have won all ten league games in which their opponent has made fewer than 40.0% of its shots. In 16 league games, opponents are shooting 40.9% from the floor, a statistic that also leads the Big West. In the last 12 Big West games, ten of which have been wins, Gaucho opponents are shooting a combined 39.3%. In the two losses over the last ten league games, a one-point defeat at Long Beach State and a three-point defeat at Cal Poly, the opponents made a combined 44-of-82 shots, 53.7%. On the season, UCSB is 0-5 in games when its opponent shoots 50.0% or better.

What's The Point?
UCSB is allowing an average of 60.7 points per game overall and 55.9 in 16 Big West games. In the last 12 Big West games, ten of which have been wins, the Gauchos have allowed an average of 54.9 points per game. UCSB has held nine of the last 12 league opponents below 60 points. Going back a bit further, the Gauchos have limited 19 of the last 21 opponents overall to fewer than 70 points and 12 of the last 21 under 60 points. In 27 games this season, UCSB opponents have been held under 70 points 22 times, under 60 points 14 times, and under 50 four times. In the last seven Big West games, Utah State, Idaho, Pacific, Cal State Northridge, Cal Poly, Long Beach State and UC Irvine combined for 267 points, an average of 52.4 per game. Idaho's 44-point total on February 8 was a season-best for the UCSB defense. In their two home wins over the weekend, the Gauchos allowed Long Beach State to score 46 and UC Irvine to score 51, a combined total of 97 points and an average of 48.5 per game.

Big Wins, Marginal Defeats
Of UCSB's four Big West Conference losses, only one has been by a large margin. On January 11, the Gauchos dropped a 16-point game, 75-59, at Utah State. The other three have come by narrow margins. The Gauchos dropped a 57-55 overtime game to Cal State Fullerton on January 4, a 68-67 decision at Long Beach State on February 1, and on February 20 they suffered a 66-63 loss at Cal Poly. Santa Barbara's 12 league wins, on the other hand, have come by comfortable margins. The Gauchos have posted wins of 16, nine, 18, 15, nine, 16, 12, eight, ten, nine, 24 and 16 points. The average margin of victory in Big West games has been 13.5 points and the average margin of defeat, including the 16-point loss at Utah State, has been 5.5 per game. In fact, of UCSB's 15 overall wins this season, nine have come by margins of 15 points or more and all of them have come by margins of eight or more points. Overall, the Gauchos are outscoring their opponents by 4.7 points per game and a league-leading average of 8.8 points per game in Big West games. Another interesting note, UCSB's two worst losses this season, at Utah State and to Detroit Mercy, came by 16 point margins and identical scores of 75-59. Hmmmm.

The Good Hands People
There are a number of reasons UCSB has turned things around this year. Obviously defense has been a big part of the turnaround, but another reason has been the Gauchos' ability to hold onto the ball. On the season, UCSB has committed 339 turnovers, an average of 12.6 per game, the second-lowest total in the Big West. In 16 league outings, the Gauchos have coughed-up just 177 turnovers, a league-leading 11.1 per game. UCSB has had eight games this season in which it has had fewer than ten turnovers, including five of the last nine. Finally, not since a January 18 home win over Pacific, have the Gauchos committed more turnovers than an opponent. In that game, UCSB had 15 turnovers to the Tigers 14. In fact, the Gauchos have gone 11 straight games without committing more turnovers than their opponent and on the season they have committed more turnovers just eight times.

Taking The Lead For Good
I must admit to a mistake. I mentioned in last week's release that UCSB has never trailed in the second half of any of its Big West Conference wins. That, in fact, is not true. Upon further review, the Gauchos did trail in the second half of their February 8 home win over Idaho. In only one other game, its January 9 win at Idaho, has UCSB even been tied in the second half. In last weekend's wins over Long Beach State and UC Irvine, the Gauchos once again took a lead into halftime and never looked back.

The Opposition
UCSB and Cal State Fullerton have played 51 times in a series that dates to 1977. The Gauchos hold a 28-23 edge. On January 4, in the second Big West game for both teams, the Titans handed the Gauchos one of their most painful defeats of the season, a 57-55 overtime decision. UCSB led virtually the entire game, but a Ralphy Holmes three-pointer at the buzzer sent the game into overtime and that is when Fullerton put it away. The Titan win snapped UCSB's eight game winning streak in the series. Last year, the Gauchos swept two games from Fullerton, but both were nail-biters. UCSB needed a three-point buzzer-beater of its own for last season's 64-62 win in Titan Gym. The Gauchos have played UC Riverside 11 times and they own a 10-1 all-time record. UCSB has won the last four meetings between the schools, including a January 65-49 win in Santa Barbara on January 2.

Road Warriors
After a very slow start, UCSB has started to emerge on the road this season. Santa Barbara has posted a 5-10 record in games away from the Thunderdome. Of that 5-10 mark, 1-4 of it has come on neutral courts and 4-6 of it has come in true road games. UCSB is 4-3 in Big West road games this season. The Gauchos have won two of their last three league road games, losing their last one on February 20 at Cal Poly, 66-63.

Free At Last
For much of the season, UCSB was shooting below the 70.0% mark from the free throw line. In recent games, however, they have surged. The Gauchos lead the Big West in free throw percentage in conference games at 75.5%. In the last eight games they have made 119-of-147, 81.0%. UCSB has six regulars shooting 71.2% or better from the line.

Career Scoring Leaders
1. Carrick DeHart 1,687
2. Mark Hull 1,501
3. Doug Rex 1,434
4. Lucius Davis 1,420
5. York Gross 1,399
6. Scott Fisher 1,351
7. Richard Anderson 1,247
8. Conner Henry 1,236
9. Ricky Walker 1,235
10. Gary Gray 1,227

Career Three-Point Leaders
1. Mark Hull 209
2. Carrick DeHart 196
3. Idris Jones 190
4. Mark Flick 162
5. Brian Johnson 150
6. Branduinn Fullove 126
7. Erick Ashe 99
8. Nick Jones 96
9. Daniel Prince 89
Raymond Tutt 89

Career Scoring Average Leaders
1. Raymond Tutt 21.5
2. Doug Rex 18.4
3. John Tschogl 15.3
4. Lelan McDougal 14.7
5. Carrick DeHart 14.2
6. Branduinn Fullove 13.8
7. Scott Fisher 13.6
8. Mark Hull 13.5
York Gross 13.5

The Hull Truth
Senior forward Mark Hull remains the second-leading scorer on the Gauchos with an average of 13.0 points per game. A week ago, he was selected Second Team All-District 15 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, becoming the first Gaucho accorded All-District honors in ten years. In Saturday's win over UC Irvine, Hull scored 13 points, and in the process became the second player in UCSB history to move past the 1,500 point mark. With 1,501 points, he joins the school's all-time leader Carrick DeHart, who finished his career (1986-90) with 1,687 points. Hull has scored in double-figures in each of the last three games, his longest streak since he went seven straight in December and January. He has now scored ten or more points 20 times in 27 games. Also on Saturday, he made 2-of-5 three-point shots, his best three-point effort since going 3-for-6 in a win over Utah State on February 6. Hull's two three-point baskets give him a career total of 209, the most in school history. He is, in fact, the only Gaucho ever to sink 200 or more three-pointers. The two three-pointers against UC Irvine marked the 25th game this season in which Hull had made at least one and the 19th time he had made two or more in a game. He drained a season-high five in games against Bucknell and Cal State Fullerton. Hull also seems to be climbing out of his overall shooting slump. In the last two games, he has made a modest 8-of-18 from the field, 44.4%. In the eight previous games, he made just 19-of-68 shots overall, 27.9%. Hull scored his season-high of 23 points in the opener on November 22 against Weber State. He has scored 20 or more four times and the Gauchos are 1-3 in those four games. Hull's career-highs of 32 points and eight three-point baskets came in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament against Arizona. He also had a 32-point, seven three-point basket game in UCSB's win at Cal State Fullerton last season. Hull leads UCSB in rebounding at 4.9 per game, going for at least five 13 times this year, including five times in the last ten games. He has had three or more boards in 12 straight games. Hull had a season-high 11 rebounds to go with 18 points on January 25 against Cal Poly. In fact, he is one of two Gauchos who has posted a double-double this season and his 11-rebound performance was the second-highest of his career and one of only three double-digit rebound performances by a UCSB player this season. In last Thursday's game against Long Beach State, Hull's streak of playing 30 or more minutes in a game was snapped at 21 straight contests. He played a season-low 27 in the blowout of the 49ers. On Saturday, he was back at the 30 minute plateau, playing exactly that total against UC Irvine. He has played 30 or more in 25 of 27 games and he easily leads the team in minutes played with 910. He has played in and started every game since arriving in 1999, a total of 114 in succession and he stands to become the first player in school history to lead the team in minutes played in four straight campaigns. In his career, Hull has played a total of 3,697 minutes and his average of 34.0 minutes per game this season would be a career-high.

Fulloving It
Junior guard Branduinn Fullove continues to lead the Gauchos in scoring at 15.0 points per game. On Saturday, in a win over UC Irvine, he had arguably his best all-around game of the season. Although he made just 5-of-13 shots from the field, he scored 15 points and tied his season-highs for rebounds with eight and assists with six. He led UCSB in both of the latter categories. On the year, Fullove is now averaging a season-high 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. The 15-point effort was his fifth straight double-figure scoring effort and the 12th in the last 13 games. The only game in the last 13 when he did not score at least 11 points was at Pacific on February 13 when he played a total of 58 seconds before leaving with a concussion. Fullove has led UCSB in scoring eight times in the last 12 games and a team-high 14 times in his 25 games this season. Scored a season-high 23 points in a December 3 home win over USC. Fullove has scored 20 or more five times, including a stretch of three consecutive games at UC Irvine, at Long Beach State and at home against Utah State. The three straight 20-point games marked a first for Fullove. Fullove enters Thursday's game at Cal State Fullerton having made at least one three-pointer in five straight games and 11 times in the last 12, the only exception being the 58-second performance at Pacific. His 40 three-pointers on the year give Fullove 126 in his career, the sixth-highest total in school history. Also, by scoring 15 points against UC Irvine, he passed the 1,100 point barrier and his 1,103 career total ranks 16th in school history. Fullove needs 48 points to move into 12th on the all-time list. As Fullove continues to get healthy, his overall numbers keep getting better and better. At various times this year, he has suffered a badly sprained ankle that kept him out of practice for two weeks, a strained groin that cost him the first two games of the Big West season, a thigh contusion that limited him in losses to Cal Poly and Detroit Mercy, and a concussion that forced him to the sidelines at Pacific. In the last two games, he has had a combined 12 rebounds and ten assists. The ten assists is Fullove's highest two-game total this season. Finally, by going 4-for-4 from the free throw line on Saturday, he has now made 25 of his last 28 from the stripe, 89.3%, to improve to 81.6% overall.

The Nick Of Time
Junior guard Nick Jones had 16 points, five rebounds and two steals against UC Irvine on the first half. Jones' big first half helped the Gauchos to a 20-point halftime lead, 38-18. He also made 6-of-7 shots in the first 20 minutes against the Anteaters. While he finished with those 16 points, to go along with six rebounds, one assist and a pair of steals, it was Jones who set the tone Saturday. He remains UCSB's third-leading scorer at 12.6 points per game. In addition, he ranks second in rebounding at 4.5 per game. Jones has averaged 13.8 points in his last seven games, shooting 30-of-52, 57.7%, over that span. He leads Gaucho regulars in field goal percentage at 49.4%. Jones has scored in double-figures 19 times in 27 games. On Saturday he made both of his three-point attempts and he has taken over the team-lead in three-point percentage at 41.7%. Jones is also tied with Branduinn Fullove for second on the team with 40 total three-pointers. He now has 96 in his career, eighth most all-time, and needs four to hit the 100 plateau and move into seventh on the all-time list. He has made 6-of-12 three-pointers over the last four games, 50.0%. Also, Jones has had ten rebounds in the last two games after collecting just two in the previous three games. He has had four or more rebounds 18 times this year. Jones is one of two Gauchos, Mark Hull is the other, to record a double-double this season. He had 16 points and ten rebounds on November 30 against San Francisco. He scored his season-high 20 points in each of the first two games of the year, marking the first time in his career that he had scored 20 or more in back-to-back games. Finally, Jones has had exactly two steals in each of the last four games and now has 25 for the year, second on the team.

The Life Of Bryan
Junior forward Bryan Whitehead played 18 minutes, had two rebounds, no points and one blocked shot in Saturday's win over UC Irvine. And, he had a good game. Whitehead's defensive efforts were instrumental in limiting UC Irvine's post players, Adam Parada, Greg Ethington and Mike Okoro to a combined 3-for-13 from the field, 23.1%. Whitehead ranks third on the team in rebounding at 3.9 per game and, despite his two-rebound performance on Saturday, he has averaged 6.0 per game in the last eight, including a career-high 11 in a February 6 win over Utah State. He has had five or more rebounds nine times this year, including six times in the last eight games. Whitehead is averaging 3.1 points per game and shooting 50.8% from the field. He has made 17 of his last 27 shots, 63.0%. Whitehead is also the only UCSB player who has recorded double-figures

Atako Points The Way
Junior guard Jacoby Atako is averaging 5.0 points and a team-leading 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. In Saturday's win over UC Irvine, he had five points, two assists, one steal, two rebounds and a blocked shot. More importantly, however, he did an outstanding defensive job on Anteater three-point specialist Mike Hood, holding him scoreless. Atako has become one of the best defensive guards in the Big West Conference. He has come-up with at least one steal in nine straight games and two or more six times over that span. He has 22 steals in 16 league games. While Atako is shooting just 39.8% overall, he is making 42.9% in Big West play. He scored a season-high 11 points on two occasions, once each at Cal Poly and at home against Cal State Northridge. He had a season-high eight assists in a win over Centenary. In his last two games, Atako has had seven assists and just two turnovers and in Big West games, he is at a 2-to-1 ratio, 52 assists and 26 turnovers.

Help Cecil, Help!
Freshman guard Cecil Brown is averaging 5.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He has scored five or more points in six of the last seven games, averaging 7.0 per game over that span. On the year, he has been in double-figures five times, including twice in the last six games. In a February 13 win at Pacific, with Branduinn Fullove out with a concussion for the final 39 minutes, and Mark Hull suffering through a poor shooting night, Brown scored a career-high 16 points, making 5-of-9 shots from the field, including 2-of-3 from three-point territory. He also ranks fourth on the team with 21 three-point baskets. He had a season-best three in games against Weber State, Pepperdine and Detroit Mercy. Brown has made at least one three-point bucket in three straight games for the first time in his career and he has had two or more five times this season.

Just Joshing
Freshman guard Josh Davis is averaging 3.8 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. Davis has seen his role grow and grow as the season has progressed. He has evolved into one of the team's best defenders, and, in fact his 21 steals on the year rank him sixth on UCSB's all-time freshman list. Of his 21 steals, 17 have come in Big West play. In addition, while Davis doesn't shoot the ball much, he is starting to become a pretty dependable scorer on penetration and the mid-range jumper. He is shooting 45.7% overall, but he has made 19-of-38 shots, 50.0%, over the last 11 games. Davis has also improved at the free throw line and by making eight of his last nine he is now shooting 78.1%. He scored a season-high 14 points in the Big West-opener against UC Riverside, shooting a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and 2-for-2 from three-point range. The 14-point game against the Highlanders was Davis' only double-figure scoring effort of the season, but he has scored four our more points 14 times.

What's Cooking?
Sophomore forward Casey Cook is averaging 5.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. He had six rebounds in each of the two games last weekend. It marked the first time this season that he had pulled-down as many as six rebounds in back-to-back games. Also, by hitting 7-of-8 free throws, Cook is now shooting 71.2% from the line, the highest mark of his career. Going back 12 games, he has hit 26 of his last 30 free throws, 86.7% and Cook is without question the most improved free throw shooter on the team. Cook scored a season-high 16 points in a November 24 win over Centenary. He has been in double-figures four times, but not since he tallied ten against Pacific on January 18 has he been in double-figures.

Oliver's Twist
Sophomore walk-on guard Chrismen Oliver continues to give UCSB solid minutes as the back-up at the point. He is averaging 1.8 points and 1.5 assists per game overall, but in Big West games, he is scoring 2.2 points per game and passing off for 2.1 assists per game. He tallied a career-high eight points, making all three of his field goal attempts, on December 10 at Cal. He is shooting 41.0% overall, 36.4% from two-point range and 47.1% from three-point range. He has made 4-of-7 three-point attempts over the last seven games. Oliver has had a career-high five assists twice, once each at Cal on December 10, and against UC Riverside on January 2.

Ward Of The Court
After not playing at all in back-to-back games, senior guard B.J. Ward has played in each of the last three, a total of 12 minutes. He had five points in last week's win over Long Beach State and two points and two rebounds in the win over UC Irvine. He made 3-of-6 shots from the field in last weekend's games. On the year, Ward has played in 24 games and averaged 1.4 points per game.