March 12, 2003

Top-Seeded Men's Basketball Heads To Anaheim To Take On Pacific In First Round Of The Big West Tournament On Thursday

The Schedule
Game No. 30
Big West Conference Tournament Game No. 1
Thursday, March 13, 2003 at approximately 2:30 p.m. (PST)
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. the University of the Pacific Tigers
at The Anaheim Convention Center

Outright Regular Season Crown Is A Gaucho First
In November, the Big West coaches and media picked UC Santa Barbara to win the 2002-03 regular season championship, earning the top-seed in the league's 2003 tournament. They were both right. The Gauchos finished the regular season with a Big West mark of 14-4, claiming their first Big West regular season championship and the top-seed in the Big West Tournament. In 1999, Bob Williams' first season in Santa Barbara, the Gauchos captured the league's Western Division, earning a pseudo-top-seed, but this is the first ever for winning the league title. In 1992, UCSB finished second in the Big West, but they were the top-seed in the league tournament because UNLV was ineligible for NCAA play.

Fullove & Williams Earn Top Big West Honors; Hull Also Chosen All-League
Junior guard Branduinn Fullove was selected 2003 Big West Player of the Week and head coach Bob Williams was chosen the 2003 Big West Coach of the Year. Fullove and senior forward Mark Hull were each named First Team All-Big West. Junior guard Nick Jones was an Honorable Mention All-Big West selection. Fullove, who enters the Big West Tournament averaging 15.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, is the third UCSB player to be selected Big West Player of the Year, joining Brian Shaw (1988) and Lucius Davis (1992). It was the first time he was named First Team All-Big West. Last year, Fullove was a second team choice. For Williams it was the second time in his five years at UCSB that he has been selected the league's Coach of the Year. In his first season in charge of the Gaucho program, 1999, Williams was also honored. The First Team All-Big West selection for Hull is his second in as many years. He becomes the first Gaucho player in 29 years to earn first team all-league honors twice. In 1999-2000, as a sophomore, Hull was named Second Team All-Big West. This is the the first time Jones has been selected to any level of all-conference.

Atako Named Big West Defensive Player Of The Year
Junior point guard Jacoby Atako, a key figure in UCSB's stingy defense, has been selected Big West Defensive Player of the Year by the league's coaches. Atako enters the Big West Tournament averaging 4.9 points and 3.2 assists per game. He leads the team in assists, as well as steals with 35.

Jones Selected Co-Winner Of Big West Hustle Award
Junior guard Nick Jones, an Honorable Mention All-Big West selection, has been chosen co-Hustle Player of the Year, by the Big West coaches. Jones, who averages 12.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, is UCSB's energizer and he has become known for his non-stop style. He shared the award with Utah State's Spencer Nelson.

UCSB Looks To Defend Big West Tournament Crown
When UCSB hits the court for Thursday's tournament opener against Pacific, the Gauchos will be doing something they have never done before. They will be making a defense of their first-ever Big West Tournament title. In 2002, as the third-seed, UCSB posted consecutive wins over fifth-seeded Cal Poly (74-65), second-seeded UC Irvine (66-61) and top-seeded Utah State (60-56), to win the championship. The tournament win enabled the Gauchos to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years where they suffered a narrow loss to the University of Arizona, 86-81.

The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara enters Thursday's Big West Tournament opener with an overall record of 17-12 and a league mark of 14-4. UCSB opened the season with a 5-9 record overall, including 2-2 in Big West play, but since then, the Gauchos have gone 12-2 against league opponents and 12-3 overall. Santa Barbara also enters the league tournament with a four-game winning streak, the fourth season-long four-game winning streak of the year.

The Williams File
Bob Williams is in his fifth season as the head coach at UC Santa Barbara. This season, he guided the Gauchos to their first Big West regular season championship and he was named Big West Coach of the Year for the second time. 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 79-65 overall record and a 56-28 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 268-165 at four-year schools.

Possible Starters - Notes
G - Jacoby Atako - One of just eight UCSB players with 300 or more assists, he has 301.
G - Nick Jones - Made 6-of-8 three-point attempts in the last three games, 75.0%.
G - Branduinn Fullove - Has hit 8-of-11 three-point atttempts in the last two games, 72.7%.
F - Mark Hull - Has moved past Brian Shaw and into tenth on all-time steal list with 92.
F - Casey Cook - Has made 30 of his last 34 free throws, 88.2%.

Probable Reserves - Notes
G - B.J. Ward - Played nine minutes in regular season finale, his high in Big West games.
G - Chrismen Oliver - Had a career-high three steals in top-seed-clinching win at CSUF.
G - Cecil Brown - Made 12-of-21 field goals over his final five games, 57.1%.
G - Josh Davis - 21 steals is the sixth-highest freshman total in school history.
F - Bray Skultety - Torn ACL in left knee will sideline him for the season.
F - Bryan Whitehead - Had first career double-double at UCR, 13 points and ten boards.
F - Scott Rainey - Has played in 17 of 29 games on the season.
F - Derek Wheeler - Made his first field goal as a Gaucho in win over UC Irvine.

Williams Continues To Hit New Heights
Bob Williams is wrapping up his fifth year at the helm of UCSB basketball. Those five seasons have included the turnaround and establishment of an outstanding program. Prior to Williams' arrival, the Gauchos had recorded five consecutive losing seasons. In 1997-98, the year immediately preceeding his arrival, UCSB was 7-19 overall and a dismal 4-12 in league play. They closed that season with eight straight losses. In 1998-99, Williams' first year at UCSB, the Gauchos opened the season with eight more losses, extending the school-record losing streak to16 games. Since then, however, the turnaround has been quite dramatic. Santa Barbara has gone 79-57 since that initial streak and in three of his five seasons, Williams' Gauchos have earned some type of title. In 1999, UCSB won the Big West's Western Division Championship, last year the Gauchos won their first-ever Big West Tournament Championship and this year they have won the league's regular season crown. Finally, the 79 wins is the most ever by a UCSB coach in his first five seasons.

League Win Total Is Highest Ever By Gauchos
The Gauchos' Big West victory total of 14 games is the most ever. Previously, the most games ever won by a UCSB team in Big West play was 13. Santa Barbara went 13-5 in league competition in 1987-88 and 1989-90. Previously, the highest winning percentage in Big West play by a Gaucho team was .750, recorded in 1998-99 with a 12-4 record. This year, UCSB's 14-4 was good for a .778 mark.

Two-Season Win Total Is The Highest In Ten Years
With its overall victory total of 17 games during the regular season, UCSB has now combined to post 37 wins over two seasons, the highest total in several years. The 1991-92 Gauchos went 20-9 and that season was followed-up by a 1992-93 team that recorded an 18-11 record, giving Santa Barbara a combined total of 38 victories. The 25 combined wins over the last two Big West seasons for the Gauchos is an all-time best for back-to-back years.

UCSB In The Big West Tournament
Prior to last year, UCSB's history in the Big West Tournament was not one to brag about. In 2002, the Gauchos not only won their first league tournament crown ever, but they advanced to their first final ever. Including last year's march to the title, UCSB has advanced to the Big West Tournament semifinals seven times, including twice under head coach Bob Williams. Overall, the Gauchos' record in the Big West Tournament entering Thursday's game against Pacific is 9-18. UCSB has recorded nearly half of its wins against Utah State, going 4-2 against the Aggies. Finally, the Gauchos are a respectable 8-7 in tournament games against current Big West Conference members. They are 4-3 in the tourney under Williams.

Is That Daylight Outside?
When UCSB opens the Big West Conference Tournament at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, it will mark the first time since 1999 that the Gauchos have played a league tournament game during the day. Not that it matters, but UCSB's last five Big West Conference Tournament games were played after 8:00 p.m. In 2000, they played the host school, Nevada, in the first session's final game, in 2001 they played Pacific in the first session's final game, and last year their opener was the last game of the day, their semifinal game was the last game of the day and, obviously, the championship game was the last game of the day.

Tough Schedule, Tough Start
It was no accident that UCSB opened the season with a sub-par 3-7 record. The Gauchos played opened the season at the BP Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska where they Weber State in the opening round and Jacksonville State in the second round. Both teams have recorded 20 or more wins this season and Weber State is unbeaten in the Big Sky. The Gauchos also played home games against USC of the Pac Ten, San Francisco, the third-place team in the West Coast Conference, and road games at Cal, a top-25 team, BYU, one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference, and Pepperdine, prior to its numerous injuries. In addition, UCSB played at the azcentral.com/ASU Classic in Tempe, Arizona where it took on Nebraska of the Big 12. Perhaps the most difficult part of the non-conference schedule, which also included a February 22 game against Detroit Mercy, was the travel. The Gauchos actually went 30 days between home games at one point, playing at the Thunderdome on December 3 against USC and then not again until they played UC Riverside in the Big West opener on January 2.

The Opposition
UCSB and Pacific have played 86 times dating back to 1947. According to our records, the teams have each posted 43 wins. The Gauchos won both games played between the schools this year, winning 67-52 on January 18 in Santa Barbara and 62-52 on February 13 in Stockton. Since Bob Williams took over the UCSB program in 1998-99, the Gauchos have gone 9-2 against the Tigers. Williams got off to a 6-0 record in the series, but UOP snapped the streak in the first round of the 2001 Big West Tournament with a 71-69 overtime win. In three Big West Tournament meetings, Pacific holds a 2-1 edge, winning in 1990 and in 2001. UCSB posted its only tournament win over the Tigers in 1993.

Why Not Hold The Tourney In S.B.?
UCSB ended its home season with a record of 10-2, the same mark it posted last season. The Gauchos are 20-4 at home over the last two seasons. Going further back, UCSB has won 23 of its last 27 games at the Thunderdome, losing only to Detroit Mercy, Cal State Fullerton, Utah State and UC Irvine over that span. After losing their second home game of the Big West season this year, the Gauchos reeled off seven straight wins against league opponents to end the year. The Gauchos recorded home wins over San Francisco, USC, UC Riverside, Cal State Northridge, Pacific, Cal Poly, Utah State, Idaho, Long Beach State and UC Irvine this season. Their average margin of victory in those ten games is an impressive 15.7 points.

Road Warriors
After a very slow start, UCSB emerged as a road team as the regular season came to a close. Santa Barbara posted a 7-10 record in games away from the Thunderdome. Of that 7-10 mark, 1-4 of it has come on neutral courts and 6-6 of it has come in true road games. UCSB went 6-3 in Big West road games this season. The Gauchos have won four of their last five road games. The only loss in the last five came on February 20 at Cal Poly, 66-63.

Defending The Gauchos
With the weekend's stellar defensive efforts, UCSB is now allowing opponents to shoot 41.3% overall and an even more impressive and league-leading 39.8% in Big West games. In four games since allowing Cal Poly and Detroit Mercy to shoot 56.1% and 60.0% in back-to-back games in January, Santa Barbara has allowed opponents to make just 73-of-203, 35.9%. Three of the last four opponents have shot 37.8% or below. UCSB has held six of its last nine opponents below 40.0% shooting. Overall, 15 of UCSB's 29 opponents have shot below the 40.0% barrier, including 11 of 18 Big West opponents. The Gauchos won all 11 league games in which their opponent made fewer than 40.0% of its shots. Overall, 14 UCSB opponents have shot under 40.0% for the game and the Gauchos have gone 13-1 in those games. The only opponent that shot under 40.0% and won was Pepperdine. Finally, Santa Barbara has limited two opponents, San Francisco (29.3%) and UC Irvine (29.8%), to under 30.0%.

What's The Point?
UCSB is allowing an average of 60.4 points per game overall and 56.1 in 18 Big West games. In the final 14 regular season Big West games, 12 of which were wins, the Gauchos allowed an average of 54.9 points per game. UCSB has held 11 of the last 14 league opponents to 60 points or less. Going back a bit further, the Gauchos have limited 21 of the last 23 opponents overall to fewer than 70 points and 15 of those to 60 points or less. In its regular season-ending four-game winning streak, UCSB's opponents scored a total of 212 points, an average of 53.0 per game.

Big Wins, Marginal Defeats
Of UCSB's four Big West Conference losses, only one was 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 14 league wins, on the other hand, mostly came by comfortable margins. The Gauchos have posted wins of 16, 9, 18, 15, 9, 16, 12, 8, 10, 9, 24, 16, 3 and 15 points. The three-point margin came in the final Thursday night of the regular season when the Gauchos beat Cal State Fullerton, 63-60. The average margin of victory in Big West games has been 12.9 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 17 overall wins this season, ten have come by margins of 15 points or more and all but one has come by margins of eight or more points. Overall, the Gauchos are outscoring their opponents by 5.1 points per game and a league-leading average of 8.8 points per game in Big West games.

Take Me To Your Leader(s)
There is little doubt that UCSB's Big Three of Branduinn Fullove, Mark Hull and Nick Jones are a primary reason for the team's success. Each member of the trio is averaging more than 12 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Combined, they are averaging 40.7 of the Gauchos' 65.5 points per game, 62.1%. They are also averaging a combined 12.9 rebounds per game. At least one member of the Big Three has led UCSB in scoring in 28 out of 29 games. Fullove has led the way 16 times, Hull nine times and Jones three times. As a trio, Fullove, Hull and Jones scored in double-figures in the same game eight times and the Gauchos are 6-2 in those games. The trio has each scored in double-figures in back-to-back games just once this year, doing so on on March 1 against UC Irvine and March 6 at Cal State Fullerton.

The Fourth Musketeer?
So, if either Fullove, Hull or Jones led the Gauchos in scoring 28 times in 29 games, who was the one other player to accomplish the feat? Freshman guard Cecil Brown, that's who. On February 13, in a game at Pacific, Brown scored a team-high 16 points in a UCSB win. Brown stepped-up after Fullove suffered a concussion in the opening minute and did not return to the game. The 16-point total was a career-high for Brown.

Taking The Lead For Good
In 14 Big West Conference victories this year, UCSB was behind in the second half just once. On February 8, in a home win over Idaho, the Gauchos trailed by five points with about seven minutes to play. UCSB was also tied late in games at Idaho and Cal State Fullerton, but never fell behind. So, in 13 of the Gauchos' 14 Big West wins this year, they were not behind in the second half. Also, three of the four losses, UCSB led in the final minute before losing close games.

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 75.8%. In the last ten games they have made 161-of-201, 80.1%. UCSB has six regulars shooting 73.0% or better from the free throw line.

Three For All
Last season, UCSB made a school-record 201 three-point baskets. The record didn't stand for long. Through 29 games this season, the Gauchos have made 202 three-point baskets. Although he has slowed down late in the year, Mark Hull still leads the way with 63 three-pointers, the fifth-highest single-season total ever. Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones have 48 and 44, respectively. Last year, the Gauchos had six different players make at least one three-pointer, and four made ten or more. This year, nine different players have drilled at least one, and five have made ten more. As a team, UCSB has made at least three three-pointers in all 29 games, five or more 24 times and ten or more four times. The Gauchos made a season-high 11 three-point baskets in a December 10 loss at Cal. In fact, UCSB is a perfect, or not-so-perfect, 0-4 when it makes ten or more three-point baskets. Taking it one step further, in victories, the Gauchos are averaging 6.2 three-point baskets per game, and in losses they are averaging 8.0 three-point baskets. Finally, UCSB has attempted 526 three-pointers this season after launching 499 in 31 games last season. The opponents, on the other hand, have tried 528 this year after shooting 644 in 2001-02.

Post By Committee
The preseason knee injury to senior post player Bray Skultety put the Gauchos in a bit of disarray early. As the year has evolved, however, their post play has improved in all aspects and has become a key ingredient in the team's success. While the Big Three have done much of the offensive damage, the combination of sophomore forward Casey Cook and junior forward Bryan Whitehead has done its part. Overall, the Cook-Whitehead duo is averaging 38.7 minutes, 8.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. In 18 Big West games, they are combining for 39.0 minutes, 9.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. Each has had his moment to shine. In fact, in the regular season finale at UC Riverside, Whitehead produced the first double-double of his career, scoring a career-high 13 points and collecting a game-high ten rebounds. The double-double was one of just three that UCSB had this season. Whitehead had two of the Gauchos' four double-figure rebounding performances this season as well. In addition to his ten boards at UCR, he had 11 on February 6 against Utah State.