Men's Basketball Takes On Pacific In First Round Of Big West Tournament, Four Gauchos Earn Big West Honors
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Game No. 28
Thursday, March 8, 2001 at approximately 8:15 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. The University of the Pacific Tigers
at The Anaheim Convention Center
The Gauchos On The Radio
All UC Santa Barbara basketball games are broadcast live on KEYT radio, 1250 AM in Santa Barbara. Randy Lee is back for his fourth season as the play-by-play announcer and Don Ford returns for his fifth year as the primary color announcer. Much to the chagrin of the listening public, UCSB Director of Athletic Media Relations Bill Mahoney will handle the color for selected road broadcasts.
The Gauchos On Broadcast.com
In addition to KEYT radio, all UCSB basketball broadcasts can be accessed on the internet at either Broadcast.com or at UCSB's official athletic website, www.UCSBgauchos.com.
UCSB On The Internet
The Official Athletic Site of UC Santa Barbara is www.UCSBgauchos.com. UCSB is part of the FANSonly network.
The UCSB Coaches Show
The Gaucho Coaches Show, hosted by Randy Lee, can be heard every Tuesday night during the basketball season at 6:30 p.m. on KEYT Newsradio, 1250 AM.
The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara ended the regular season with road losses at Utah State and Boise State. The back-to-back defeats send the Gauchos into the Big West Tournament with an overall record of 13-14 and a league mark of 9-7. Despite the losses on the road, UCSB closed the season by winning eight of its final 11 games to finish fourth in the Big West.
Hull, Vukovich & Fullove Earn Big West Honors
Sophomore Mark Hull and junior Mike Vukovich earned Second Team All-Big West, while freshman Branduinn Fullove was named Honorable Mention All-Big West. This marks the first time since the 1970-71 season that the Gauchos placed three players on the All-Big West Team (either first team, second team or honorable mention). Hull finished the regular season as UCSB's leading scorer at 13.8 points per game. Despite playing at the power forward position for most of the season, Hull also led the team in three-point baskets with 42. Vukovich's selection caps a breakthrough year for the junior. He entered the season as a reserve, but when Adama Ndiaye fractured his ring finger and was sidelined for the season, Vukovich was thrust into a starting role. After a slow start, he emerged as one of the best post players in the league and he finished the regular season averaging 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots per game. Vukovich also shot a team-high 57.4% from the floor. Fullove entered the year as a reserve, entered the starting lineup in December and the rest was history. He enters postseason play averaging 12.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and a team-high 3.2 assists per game.
Fullove & Jones Earn All-Freshman Honors
In addition to the All-Big West honors mentioned above, a pair of UCSB's freshman class earned Big West All-Freshman Team honors. Fullove was joined by Nick Jones in earning the honor, marking the first time since the 1992-93 season that the Gauchos have placed more than one player on the All-Freshman Team. Fullove and Jones rank highly on several of UCSB's all-time freshman top tens. Fullove's current scoring average of 12.2 points per game would rank him second on the all-time list if it could be maintained. Jones is averaging 9.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. Like Fullove, he entered the starting lineup in late December and never gave up his spot, starting the final 18 games of the season. In league play the duo was even more impressive. Fullove led UCSB in Big West play with a scoring average of 14.0 points per game and Jones finished at 11.6 per contest.
What About Bob?
Bob Williams is in his third season as head coach at UCSB. Last year he guided the Gauchos to a 14-14 overall record and a solid 10-6 mark in Big West play. He is the first coach in UCSB history to open his career with back-to-back seasons of .500 or better. In addition, he led the Gauchos to a record of 22-10 in league play in his first two seasons, a winning percentage of .687, the best two-year league mark in school history. In his first season, Williams guided UCSB to the Big West's Western Division championship, a 15-13 record overall and a 12-4 record in league. He was named Big West Coach of the Year in 1999. Williams has posted a 42-41 overall record as head coach of the Gauchos. Including this year, his Big West record is 31-17 (.646), the third best mark in the league over that span. In his career, which includes stops at UC Davis and Menlo College, he now has a 231-141 record.
Probable Starters - Notes
G - Jacoby Atako - Finished regular season as leader in total assists, 80.
G - Branduinn Fullove - Four 20-point games is the most by a freshman since 1986-87.
G - Nick Jones - Made just 2-of-11 (18.2%) shots in final two games.
F - Mark Hull - Has made three-pointers in 11 straight games and 17 out of 18.
F - Mike Vukovich - His 57.4% from the field would rank as seventh best of all-time.
Possible Reserves - Notes
G - B.J. Ward - Only Gaucho to have at least one assist in all 27 regular season games.
F - Juliano Jordani - Averaged just 9.7 minutes per in last six games.
F - Casey Cook - Has made 24 of his last 46 shots, 52.2%, in last 12 games.
F - J.J. Todd - Has committed only two turnovers in 116 minutes.
G - LaDonte King - Four points at Utah State rank as his highest road total ever.
I Repeat, Ndiaye Will Redshirt Season
As mentioned in each of the preceding 21 releases, Adama Ndiaye, who was expected to be one of the top frontcourt players in the Big West this season, will redshirt, head coach Bob Williams announced last week. On November 16, Ndiaye fractured the ring finger on his left hand. On November 17, he had a pin placed in the finger, and has remained sidelined ever since.
UC Santa Barbara swept its season series against the Tigers, winning in Stockton on February 3 by a score of 73-67 and then in Santa Barbara on February 24 by a score of 72-63. The two wins were gives UCSB a six game winning streak in the series. The Gauchos have not lost to Pacific since the 1997-98 season. The Tigers lead the all-time series by a narrow 41-40 margin.
Fast Finishes The Norm Recently
Despite their road defeats at Utah State and Boise State last weekend, UCSB finished the season strongly for the third year in a row. While a 13-14 record seems modest, it takes on a bit more significance when one considers the injury to Ndiaye just prior to the season-opener and, of course, the 0-4, 2-7 and 5-11 starts. Since those points, UCSB has gone 13-10, 11-7 and 8-3.
Could We Move The Tournament To February?
Since Bob Williams arrived at UCSB for the 1998-99 season, the Gauchos have been pretty tough to beat in the month of February. This year, Santa Barbara went 7-1 in the second month of the year, last year they went 7-1 in February and in Williams' first season, they were 6-2. For those of you who struggle with simple addition, that would add up to an outstanding 20-4, a winning percentage of 83.3%. In the three Februaries, the Gauchos have gone 9-2 on the road and 11-2 at home.
Youth Is Served
Not only is youth served, the Gauchos are serving it in huge helpings. Through the 27 game regular season, UCSB is utilizing its underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) at a tremendously high rate. Freshmen have recorded 2,542 of the team's 5,525 total minutes, 46.0%. Sophomores have played 1,495 minutes, 27.1%. Combined, the UCSB underclassmen have played 4,037 minutes, 73.1% of this season's available minutes. The Gauchos' only two seniors (Juliano Jordani and the recently departed LaRon Bryant) have played a total of 865 minutes, 15.7%. The upperclassmen (juniors and seniors) have logged 1,453 minutes, 26.3%.
Here is a breakdown of UCSB primary statistics and percentages by class:
A Fresh Approach
On December 30, in a home win over Loyola Marymount, UC Santa Barbara started three freshmen for the first time in school history. All three freshmen who made history on that day (Wow, that's profound.) remain in the starting lineup. Branduinn Fullove, Nick Jones and Jacoby Atako have each started the last 18 straight games for the Gauchos.
Hot, Cold, Hot, Cold...
After making a combined 30-of-90 (33.3%) shots in games against Utah State and UC Riverside, UCSB hit 52-of-97, 53.6%, in wins over Cal Poly and Pacific. In the five games prior to their back-to-back sub-.40.0% outings, UCSB made 141-of-257, a lofty 54.9%, and they never shot below 45.3% in those five. In the last two games of the regular season, however, they reverted to poor shooting. Thursday, at Utah State, the Gauchos made just 15-of-47 shots from the field, a dismal 31.9%. The 31.9% was the team's third lowest mark of the year. In fact, in two games against Utah State, UCSB made just 30-of-88 shots, 34.1%. In Saturday's game at Boise State they were better, but still only 21-of-52, 40.4%. On the year, UCSB is now shooting 43.5% overall and a 47.5% in Big West games. They have made 50.0% or more of their shots eight times while their opponents have made 50.0% or better just three times, including Utah State twice. The Aggies, in fact, made 59.6% in their win last week, the highest percentage by a Gaucho opponent this season. Boise State made just 35.7% of its shots last Saturday and they were the ninth opponent held to below 40.0% in a game. Last year, the Gauchos shot just 41.4% overall and 43.7% in league games.
50.0% Is The Magic Number
Speaking of field goal percentages, UCSB has recorded a 50.0% or better mark eight times this season and each time they have won. In games when they make at least 45.0% or better, they have a solid record of 10-2.
Gauchos Back In Debt
After outscoring UC Riverside, Cal Poly and Pacific by a total of 27 points, the Gauchos had finally moved into the black in terms of scoring for the season. They last Thursday's game at Utah State having outscored their opponents by the massive margin of 1,755 to 1,753. So much for that. By dropping a 33-point game at Logan and then a six-point game at Boise State, UCSB is once again in scoring arrears, having been outscored by its opponents by 37 points. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.
Freshmen Leading The Way
If you look to the right, you will notice that, with the sole exception of the blocked shots category, every statistical category is led by the freshman class. They lead with 803 points, 404 rebounds, 198 assists and 63 steals. In fact, in terms of points, they have outscored the sophomore class by 311 total points.
Starting Lineup Rundown
Here is UCSB's record with the various starting lineups this season:
1. Ward, Bryant, Hull, Jordani and Vukovich: 2-5
2. Ward, Bryant, Fullove, Hull and Jordani: 0-1
3. Atako, Fullove, Hull, Jordani and Vukovich: 0-1
4. Atako, Jones, Fullove, Hull and Vukovich: 11-7
Where The Freshmen Stand
UCSB has received outstanding contributions from its freshmen this season. Three, Branduinn Fullove, Nick Jones and Jacoby Atako, have started more than half the season. Statistically, that trio is starting to make an imprint on the Gauchos freshman top-ten lists. Here is where they stand:
Player -Total -Rank
Branduinn Fullove- 294 -3rd
Nick Jones- 260 -6th
Branduinn Fullove- 12.2- 2nd
Nick Jones- 9.6- 6th
Branduinn Fullove- 120- t-5th
Nick Jones- 112- 8th
Branduinn Fullove- 5.0- 4th
Nick Jones- 4.1- 7th
Nick Jones- 96- 5th
Branduinn Fullove- 87- 7th
Branduinn Fullove- 95- 1st
Nick Jones- 51- t-5th
Jacoby Atako- 80- 3rd
Branduinn Fullove- 75- 5th
Jacoby Atako- 19- t-6th
Nick Jones- 15- t-10th
Branduinn Fullove- 15- t-10th
As The Ball Turns...Over
With 21 turnovers in Saturday's loss at Boise State, the Gauchos finished the regular season with 437, an average of 16.2 per game. UCSB has had double-figures in turnovers in all 27 games, 15 or more 19 times, and 20 or more four times. The Gauchos have had more turnovers than the opposition 18 times this season, including the last ten consecutive games.
Free, But Priceless
Led by a trio of players who shoot better than 75.0%, UCSB shot an impressive 72.6% from the free throw line for the regular season. If maintained, the 72.6% mark would tie for the sixth best in school history. The Gauchos shot 72.6% in 1985-86. Freshman Branduinn Fullove leads the way, shooting 83.3% from the charity stripe, easily a freshman record. Mark Hull has also been outstanding, making 79.7% overall and a team-leading 83.8% in league play. In fact, Hull has made 30-of-36 over the last seven games, 86.1%. Nick Jones is the third player above the 75.0% plateau and he checks into postseason play with a mark of 78.5%. Even B.J. Ward has joined the club. While he is shooting just 63.4% on the season, missing seven straight over a seven game stretch, he has made 12 in a row over the last five games. While fellow point guard Jacoby Atako is up to 70.1% overall, he has drilled 16 of his last 18, 88.9%.
Big West Winning Ways
After starting the Big West Conference season with a 2-4 record, the prospects of a better than .500 mark in league play looked rather bleak, but things obviously turned around. With a 9-7 record UCSB finished two games over the break-even mark. This marks the third straight year that the Gauchos finished the conference schedule with a winning record. In Bob Williams' first season, UCSB went 12-4. Last year, after an 0-3 start, they finished 10-6 and this year they went 9-7. By posting three consecutive winning records in Big West play, the Gauchos did something that the program had not done in quite some time. Until the last three seasons, UCSB had not recorded three straight winning league seasons since they did so in 1986-87 through 1989-90. From 1991-92 through 1993-94, they did go 13-5, 11-7 and 9-9, but the last time I checked, 9-9 was not above the .500 mark. Finally, the .646 winning percentage that the Gauchos have compiled in the league since Williams arrived for the 1998-99 season, would rank as the second best three-season league winning percentage in school history. UCSB recorded a Big West winning percentage of .685 between 1987-88 and 1989-90.
Hull Of A Player
Sophomore Mark Hull was named Second Team All-Big West, the only underclassman named to All-Big West first or second teams this season. Hull is UCSB's leading scorer at 13.8 points per game and he has been, with little question, the most consistent player on the team. He has scored ten or more points 19 times in 27 games, the most on the team. Hull has scored 20 or more points five this year and on February 10, he tallied a career-high 31 points in a home win over Cal Poly, the first 30+ performance by a Gaucho since Josh Merrill went for 31 against Long Beach State two seasons ago. In addition, he now leads the team with 42 three-point baskets, 17 more than he made last season. Hull has now made at least one three-pointer in ten 11 games, 17 of 18, and 23 of 27. The 11 game streak is the longest run of his career. Since a 2-for-12 start from three-point territory, Hull has made 40-of-102, 39.2%, and that includes a two game stretch against St. Mary's and UC Riverside when he was 1-for-13. Hull has now taken ten or more in four straight games for the first time since December. The 15 he took at Cal Poly on February 22, were the most he has launched in league play and the most since he attempted 15 at St. Mary's on December 22. After taking ten or more shots in 11 of the first 16 games, he has attempted ten or more only five in the last 11 games. Hull also leads the Gauchos in minutes played. Through 27 games, he has logged 900 minutes, an average of 33.3 per game. His 900 minutes are 172 more than Branduinn Fullove's total of 728. He opened the season by playing 30 or more minutes in six straight games, averaging 36.7 over that span. In fact, he played 30 or more in 15 of the first 16 games. He has returned to that trend, playing 178 in the last five, 35.6 per game. In all, Hull has played 30 minutes or more in 21 of 27 games. Finally, in his career, Hull has now scored 661 points, the second highest combined freshman and sophomore total in school history. Carrick DeHart scored 725 in his freshman and sophomore campaigns.
Keeping Up With The Jones
Nick Jones was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team this week, one of two Gauchos bestowed with that honor. Although he closed the regular season with two subpar games, he has had an outstanding freshman season. Jones was, in fact, the only Gaucho to earn the Big West Player of the Week award, doing so two weeks ago following his performances in wins over Pacific and Cal Poly. On February 22 at Cal Poly, he became the second freshman this season (the other being Branduinn Fullove) to record a double-double as he went for 14 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. Then, on February 24 against Pacific, he scored a career-high 22 points, making 6-of-7 shots, pulled down six rebounds, passed off for two assists and claimed a career-high three steals. After being limited to just five points and five rebounds in the final two games of the regular season, Jones is averaging 9.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game overall and 11.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in league action. He is also starting to scale the program's statistical freshman top-ten lists. His 260 points rank as the sixth highest total ever, while his rebound total of 112 ranks him eighth and his steal total of 15 ranks ninth. Recently, Jones has become a rebounding menace, averaging 6.0 per game over the last five games. He has also pulled down five or more 12 times this season, including 11 times in the last 16 contests. In fact, his average of 4.9 rebounds per game in league play rank him second on the team. Not only is he rebounding at a high level now, but Jones is making a habit of scoring key points and making big plays. ^ He scored 11 points in the final 12 minutes in a February 24 win over Pacific. ^ With just over eight minutes to go in a February 17 win over UC Riverside, Jones hit a difficult driving layup. On UCR's next possession, he stole the ball and went in for another layup, instead, Jones was fouled intentionally, made both free throws and then when the Gauchos inbounded the ball, he was fouled again. When the dust in that sequence had cleared, UCSB went from a three point deficit to a two point lead. For good measure, Jones then drilled a three-pointer as the shot clock expired with 4:47 to go, increasing the Gaucho lead from three to six. ^ On February 10, against Cal Poly, Jones also made the big baskets. When the Mustangs pulled within two points with just under six minutes to play, he restored order. In the final five minutes, Jones scored seven of his 15. ^ On February 1 at Long Beach State, Jones and the Gauchos overcame a double-digit deficit in final 8:41 of the game, as UCSB outscored the 49ers 23-3. In the run, he scored nine points, making 4-of-5 shots from the floor. Since playing only 113 minutes in the first eight games (14.1 per game), never playing more than 20 in any one, Jones has picked up the pace in a big way. In the last 18 games he has played 549 minutes, an average of 30.5 per game and he has played at least 25 in all 18 and 30 or more 12 times. Over the last 18 games, Jones has scored in double-figures 14 times, averaging 13.0 per game.
A Whole Lotta Fullove
Freshman Branduinn Fullove was named to the Big West's All-Freshman Team and Honorable Mention All-Big West this week. He is proving to be one of UCSB's best all-around players, doing a little of everything. He is second on the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game, second in rebounding at 5.0 per game, first in assists at 3.1 per game, and second in blocked shots with seven. On Saturday at Boise State, despite playing with a severely bruised left thigh, he recorded his fourth 20 point game of the season, going for 22 points, along with eight rebounds and a pair of assists. Fullove scored a career-high 23 points, including the game-winning shot with just over a second to play, in a February 8 win over Idaho. On February 22, in a win over Cal Poly, he scored 20 points to go along with a game-high six assists (only one turnover) and four rebounds. He also tallied 22 points on January 11 in a win at Cal State Fullerton. Four 20 point performances by a freshman are the most by a Gaucho in 15 years. Fullove has scored in double-figures four times in his last five games and 15 times this season. In Big West play, Fullove's numbers are even better. In 16 league contests, the freshman from Simi Valley leads the team at 14.0 points per game and a team-leading 3.5 assists per game. Twice this season (vs. UC Irvine and Idaho), Fullove has led the team in points, rebounds and assists, becoming the only freshman in history to turn the trick. He has either led or tied for the team lead in assists 13 times in his 24 games this season (he missed three full games and one partial game with an ankle sprain). Fullove has led the team in scoring five times and he has either led or tied for the team lead in rebounds five times. He has also emerged as an outside shooting threat with 25 three-point baskets. After opening the season by making only 3-of-14 (21.4%), he has made 22-of-54 (40.7%) over the last 17 games. At one point, he made at least one three-point basket in 12 straight games. In fact, Fullove has made at least one three-pointer in 15 of the last 18 games. He is also UCSB's best free throw shooter. He made all nine of ten from the line in the final two regular season games and has now made a team-leading 95-of-114, 83.3%. If he can maintain that mark, he would set a UCSB freshman record for free throw percentage and he would rank as the seventh best in school history. Speaking of freshman lists, Fullove ranks high on several (please note the previous page of notes). Finally, his double-double against UCI on January 25 was the first double-double by a Gaucho freshman since the 1993-94 season. Nick Jones has since also accomplished the feat.
The Vukovich File
Mike Vukovich was selected Second Team All-Big West this week. He continues to give UCSB outstanding performances in the post and none have been better than when he made 12-of-12 shots from the field and scored a career-high 27 points on February 3 against Pacific. Although he enters the Big West Tournament having gone back-to-back games in single-digits for the first time since late January, he remains one of the team's most potent offensive forces. On the year, Vukovich is UCSB's leader in field goal percentage at 57.4%, a mark that would rank sixth all-time. In Big West games, Vukovich is shooting an even more impressive 60.3%. Vukovich enters the tournament as the Gauchos' third leading scorer (11.1 ppg) and leading rebounder (5.4 rpg) and shot blocker (36). In fact, his blocked shot total of 36 ranks ninth all-time and his career mark of 51 swats ranks seventh all-time. In 16 Big West games, he was third on the team in scoring (12.6 ppg), tops in rebounding (5.4 rpg) and blocked shots (20) and third in steals (11). Since a slow start this season, Vukovich has been one of the most valuable players on the team. Tossed into the fire, and the starting lineup, when Adama Ndiaye fractured his finger in the preseason, he struggled early, averaging 5.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in the first five games. In those first five, he made just 11-of-29 (37.9%) shots from the field, and 5-of-10 (50.0%) from the free throw line. In game six, however, a light went on and Vukovich hasn't been the same since. In the last 22 contests, he has averaged 12.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocked shots, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 assists per game. He has also made 113-of-187 from the field, 60.4%, and 46-of-64 from the free throw line, 72.0%. And, after scoring in double-figures just twice in his the first 54 games of his career, Vukovich has scored in double-digits 15 times in the last 22 games, scoring 20 or more three times in that span, going for 20 on January 4 against Boise State and 20 against Long Beach State on January 18, in addition to his 27 point explosion at Pacific on February 3. Also, after playing just 453 minutes in 49 career games entering the season, Vukovich has piled up 609 in 27 this season, an average of 22.6 per game. Finally, while he has fouled out of a team-high seven games on the year, five of those disqualifications came in the first eight games of the year, including four in the first four. He has now fouled out only two times in the last 19 games.
Atako Filling UCSB Point Guard Appetite
Freshman Jacoby Atako has had arguably the toughest job on the Gaucho roster this season. Granted, Vukovich's task of taking over for an injured Ndiaye was a tough one, but Atako's mission as a freshman starting point guard has been a real doozy. How has he done? Well, it has been a roller coaster. Atako enters postseason play with averages of 4.7 points, 3.0 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game. He was in the starting lineup for reach of the final 19 games, including the entire 16 game Big West schedule. Atako's total of 80 assists leads the team, and his average of 2.3 per game ranks second to Fullove. On the year, he has turned the ball over 64 times, and until recently, he had protected the ball quite well. Atako has produced more assists than turnovers 11 times this year, he has had the same total seven times, and he has had more turnovers nine times. In the last six game of the regular season, Atako had ten assists and 18 turnovers. Interestingly, while his assist to turnover ratio was suffering recently, his shooting touch was improving. While Atako is hitting just 32.1% of his shots on the season, he has made 62.5% (10-of-16) over the past seven games. Additionally, his free throw shooting has taken a recent jump. He is at 70.1% on the season, making 16-of-18 over the last five games. Prior the current spurt, Atako was making just 63.2%. The freshman from Santa Monica High School has scored in double-figures twice, going for a career-high 12 in a win over UC Riverside and pouring in 11 in a home win over Cal Poly. He has also produced UCSB's two highest assist totals this season, passing off for nine on January 18 against Long Beach State and for eight on November 21 against USF. Lastly, Atako has proven to be a pretty good rebounder despite his size and he has had four or more in a game seven times.
Ward Of The Court
Sophomore B.J. Ward began the season as the starting point guard, ultimately he gave way in the starting lineup to freshman Jacoby Atako, but as the regular season wound to its conclusion, his role had increased again. Ward closed the year by playing 20 or more minutes in four straight games, the first time he had done so since the first five games of the Big West Conference schedule. He enters the Big West Tournament averaging 4.4 points, 2.8 assists, 3.0 rebounds and a team-leading 1.3 steals per game. Ward is the only Gaucho player to have produced at least one assist in all 27 games and he had two or more 18 times. He had a high of seven assists on November 21 against USF. After passing off for just 39 assists and turning the ball over 54 times last season, Ward made major strides this season, dishing off 76 assists and turning the ball over 60 times. In fact, his 54 turnovers last year came in just 372 minutes, his 60 this season came in 595 minutes. While leading the Gauchos in steals, Ward had at least one in 23 of 27 games, including each of the last eight games. He has scored ten or more points three times, including a career-high 15 against Westmont College on December 12, but he has not had more than nine points since then. The graduate of Oxnard's Santa Clara High School also improved his rebounding this season. Not only did he average 3.0 per game, but he had a career-best ten on December 6 against San Diego State. He averaged 4.7 per game in the final three games. Finally, after shooting just 41.3% from the field and 47.5% from the line last season, Ward has improved greatly this year. He enters postseason play at 45.6% from the field, including 55.0% in the last 13 games, and 75.0% from the free throw line, including 12-for-12 over the last five games.
Freshman forward Casey Cook has had an up-and-down first year, but he definitely ended the regular season on an up note. Cook enters the Big West Tournament with averages of 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. He is shooting 36.8% from the field and 56.1% from the line. A closer look, however, reveals that Cook's shooting has heated up lately. In the last 12 games, he has made 24-of-46 shots from the floor, 52.3%. Taking it a step further, over the last 16 games, he has made 29-of-58, 50.0%. As for his free throws, since opening the year by going 15-of-33, 45.5%, he has made eight in a row to improve to 56.1% on the season. He has hit a trio of three-pointers on the season, but since making 2-of-5 to start the year, he has hit just 1-of-15 since. Cook scored in double-figures twice, going for 14 points on January 27 against Cal State Fullerton, and for ten points on December 9 against USC. He has averaged 5.0 points per game over the last 12 contests. While his rebounding has been down lately, he is averaging just 1.5 per game over the last ten games, he had a career-high nine on December 21 against USF and he had eight against UC Irvine on January 25. He also had a pair of seven rebound performances, once each against USC and UC Irvine. Finally, although Cook averaged 14.2 minutes and played in all 27 regular season games, he has been a little more active of late, averaging 17.0 minutes per game over the final three games of the campaign.
The Brazilian Warrior
Juliano Jordani's statistics won't make anyone forget Michael Jordan, but he is the emotional heart and soul of the Gauchos. Jordani enters the Big West Tournament averaging 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He started the first nine games of the regular season, but he has come off the bench in the last 18, and despite a sore back and sore knees, he has averaged 17.0 minutes per game. Jordani has scored in double-figures three times this season, including a season-high 15 at St. Mary's. He has pulled down ten rebounds twice, once each against Pepperdine and Westmont College. Jordani is ranks fifth on the team in rebounds and he is easily among the team-leaders in rebounds per minutes played. He is averaging nearly 9.0 per 40 minutes of action. He has had five or more boards nine times this season. Jordani is shooting 38.6% from the field, but he has made 17-of-36 shots over the last 14 games, a respectable 47.2%. In addition, he has hit four three-pointers on the year. Since opening the season by playing 20 or more minutes eight times in the first nine games, Jordani has gone 11 straight games and 17 of the last 18 without playing 20 minutes. In fact, in the last six games, he is averaging 9.7 minutes per game. Still, as the lone senior on the team, Jordani has been a major contributor this season.
The Fifth Freshman
For much of the year, it was easy to make the mistake regarding the number of freshmen who were contributing to the Gauchos. Obviously there were four, Branduinn Fullove, Nick Jones, Jacoby Atako and Casey Cook. Over the past eight games, however, a The Fifth Freshman has emerged. J.J. Todd, the team's tallest player at 6-foot-11, redshirted last season after a career at Chaminade High School. Through the first 19 games of the season, his contributions were kind of like that of the 12th man on a 12 man pitching staff, he was the mop-up guy. Over those first 19 contests, Todd played nine times and logged 49 minutes, 39 of which came in games against USC, BYU, UCLA and Cal State Fullerton. In the last eight, he has played 70 minutes, an average of 8.8 per game and, to say the least, he has played at key junctures. While he has scored only six points in the last eight games, he has come up with 16 rebounds (2.0 per game) and a trio of blocked shots. Most importantly, he has given the team quality minutes in relief of starter Mike Vukovich. Todd has committed just two turnovers in his 116 minutes, that's one per 58.0 minutes. In fact, he has not turned the ball over since December 3 against Westmont, a stretch covering 15 games and 90 minutes of action.
^Last season, in 28 games, the Gauchos had four players score in double-figures a total of six times. This year, the team has had four or more in double-figures 11 times in 27 games. The Gauchos have committed more fouls than their opponents only nine times in 27 games this season.
^Of the five major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots and steals) a freshman or sophomore has led or tied for the team lead 83 times in 135 opportunities, 61.5%.
^Eight different players have either led or tied for the team lead in scoring this season.
^Six different players have either led or tied for the team-lead in rebounding.
^B.J. Ward is the only Gaucho player to have at least one assist in all 27 games this season.
^In their February 17 win over UC Riverside, all three Gauchos who scored in double-figures were freshmen, marking the first time in school history that every player in double-figures in a game (minimum of three) were freshmen.
^The opposition has attempted 154 more three-pointers than the Gauchos this season.
^Last season, UCSB averaged 6.1 three-point baskets per game and they finished the season with a school-record total of 171. This year, they are averaging 4.96 per game.