March 7, 2003
Tonight, for the first time all season, the UCSB men's basketball team can sit back and just enjoy playing the game of basketball. Thursday night the Gauchos held on for a victory over the Titans of Fullerton to clinch a regular season championship in the Big West Conference. The win also guaranteed Santa Barbara a #1 seed in the conference tournament, something that should make the run to the NCAA Tournament a bit easier. UCSB enter's tonight's game with an overall record of 16-12 and a league mark of 13-4. Riverside is 6-17 on the season and is 5-12 in the Big West. The game will be played at UCR's Student Recreation Center and will be broadcast on KEYT 1250.
UC Santa Barbara Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the back court for the Gauchos will be Jacoby Atako, who struggled a bit against Cal State Fullerton. Atako went 0-3 from the floor and managed just one point, four less then his season average, and he turned the ball over three times. The other guards will be Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones. Fullove led all scorers with 19 points in Thursday's game going 5-for-8 eight from the floor and 5-for-6 from behind the three-point line. On the season he is leading the team in scoring at 15 points per game. Jones continued his offensive tear against the Titans scoring 15 points and sinking three of his four three-point attempts. Starting on the blocks for the Gauchos will be Mark Hull and Casey Cook. Hull will be playing in his last regular season game at UC Santa Barbara tonight. He has been the most consistent player in Gaucho history racking up the most minutes of playing time and the second most points as well as becoming the only player in UCSB history to start and play in every single basketball game in his four years here. Against the Titans, Hull went 3-for-5 five from the floor and finished with 10 points. Cook connected on all of his shots against Fullerton knocking down both his shots from the floor and sinking two free throws.
UC Riverside Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the back court for the Highlanders will be Jake Wessel and Kevin Butler. Wessel is averaging 5.3 points per game and is pulling down 2.3 rebounds. He is not much of an outside threat having made just nine three-pointers on the season, but when he takes his game inside the arc, he has connected on 45% of his field goals. Butler is the third leading scorer for UC Riverside averaging 8.7 points per game. He is most effective when passing the ball as he leads the team with 70 assists. Butler also gets to the free throw line often where he converts almost 80% of his free throws. The forwards for UCR will be Nate Carter, John Galbreath, and Aaron Hands. Carter is the Highlanders' leading scorer at 16.7 points per game. He is shooting around 50% from the floor and 37% from the three-point line. His three-point percentage is tops amongst the starters for Riverside. Additionally, he is second on the team in rebounding and assists, grabbing 5.5 boards per game and dishing out a total of 35 assists. Galbreath is scoring seven points and pulling down three rebounds per contest. He knocks down about 45% of his shots from the floor. Hands is the man in the middle for UCR, leading the team in rebounding with six boards per game while also chipping in 5.5 points. He leads the team with 12 blocked shots on the season.
Scouting the Gauchos:
It's hard to say how the Gauchos will come out tonight, they could relax a bit and try and conserve their energy, or they could come out like this is game one of the Big West Tournament. Either way, Santa Barbara will play hard as it is against the nature of the program to play soft or unmotivated. Plus, there are plenty of motivating factors coming into tonight's game. The Gauchos want to continue to improve and continue their winning streak. Additionally, the team wants to make sure it stays on top of all aspects of its game going into the Big West Tournament. However, it may be in the best interest of the program to do its best to conserve energy and health before the post season. Regardless, expect to see Fullove, Jones, and Hull doing some scoring. Fullove is hot right now leading the team with six straight double-digit scoring games and 13 in the last 14. Jones has also been hot pacing the team with 16 against Irvine and scoring 15 against Fullerton. Hull continues to score below his capability but everyone knows that during the post season, his game improves dramatically. Defensively, look for the Gauchos to perfect their zones and pressure defenses against the Highlanders. Coach Williams will undoubtedly throw some different looks at Riverside to throw the Highlanders off their game and to give Santa Barbara a chance to run through the motions before the results really count. Regardless of the approach the Gauchos take tonight, expect a hard played game that showcases many different players on the Santa Barbara roster.
Scouting the Highlanders:
Nate Carter is pretty much Mr. Everything for the Highlanders. He is their leading scorer at 16.7 points per game while also leading the team in minutes per game, shooting percentage, free throws, and unfortunately, turnovers. Therefore, Carter is going to be the main focus of the Gaucho defense. A non-starter, Ted Bell, is the team's top three-point shooter, connecting on 49-of-113 attempts from downtown. Likely Atako will be assigned to Bell whenever he is in, making sure he doesn't get any easy shots. As a team, Riverside is statistically lower in just about every category than their opponents. This means that if Santa Barbara can come to play with the regular defensive intensity we have seen throughout Big West play, the Gauchos should be able to come away with a victory.
The key match-up in tonight's game will be health versus the Gauchos. Because Santa Barbara has already established their first place finish in Big West play and has locked down the #1 seed in the conference tournament, this game really doesn't mean much in terms of standings. Of course the Gauchos will come out and play this game just like they would any other, it is important they stay sharp and prepared for the post season. But what is most important about this game is that everybody stay healthy and poised for the post season run. Don't be surprised to see many different combinations on the floor for Coach Williams as he tries to get everybody warmed up for the Big West Tournament.
What to Look For:
Look for the Gauchos to finish their season on a high note, with a four game winning streak. Nothing would please the coaching staff more then knowing they will be heading down to Anaheim with a winning streak and a squad full of healthy bodies. Expect to see many different Gauchos get playing time tonight but also look for UCSB to continue to play hard and work on things the team must perfect as a whole in order to be prepared for the post season.