Rough Road Continues As Hobbled Men's Basketball Travels To UCLA, Hosts Westmont

Rough Road Continues As Hobbled Men's Basketball Travels To UCLA, Hosts Westmont

Nov. 28, 2000

The Schedule
Game No. 4
Wednesday, November 29, 2000 at 7:35 p.m.

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at UCLA Bruins
at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion
Fox Sports Net 2

Game No. 5
Saturday, December 2, 2000 at 7:05 p.m.

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Westmont College Warriors
at UCSB's Thunderdome

Jones Joins Ndiaye & Fullove On Injured List
With about 12 minutes to play at BYU on Saturday, freshman guard Nick Jones sprained his right ankle in a play away from the ball. He is questionable for Wednesday's game at UCLA. Jones is the third key player to go down with an injury early in the season. Senior forward Adama Ndiaye and freshman swingman Branduinn Fullove, each expected to play a major role for the Gauchos this season, have also been sidelined with injuries. In practice on Thursday, November 16, Ndiaye fractured the ring finger on his left hand and the following day he had a pin placed in the broken digit, sidelining him for a minimum of four to six weeks. On Sunday, November 19, in UCSB's opener at Pepperdine, Fullove, who led the team with 13 points, severely sprained his right ankle with about three minutes left and he was declared out for two to four weeks.

The Gaucho Record
The Gauchos are 0-3 on the season after dropping a 67-53 decision on the road at BYU. UCSB, playing without Ndiaye and Fullove, trailed by seven points at half and ultimately cut BYU's lead to three with possession in the final six minutes, but they could get no closer. The Cougars hit most of their free throws down the stretch to extend the lead and ice the victory.

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 has led the Gauchos to a two-year record of 22-10 in league play, a winning percentage of .687, the best two-year league mark in school history. In his first season, Williams led 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 29-30 overall record. In his career, which includes stops at UC Davis and Menlo College, he now has a 218-130 record.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - B.J. Ward - Back-to-back double-digit efforts, a first for him.
G - LaRon Bryant - Attempted only four shots in 24 minutes at BYU.
F - Mark Hull - Scored career-high 21 at BYU.
F - Juliano Jordani - Has attempted only 15 shots in 80 minutes.
F - Mike Vukovich - Played a career-high 27 minutes at BYU.

Possible Reserves - Notes
G - Jacoby Atako - Leads team with 14 assists in three games.
G - Nick Jones - Injured ankle leaves him questionable at UCLA.
F - Casey Cook - Has had seven points in each of the last two games.
F - J.J. Todd - Saw his first action of the year, playing 12 minutes at BYU.
G - LaDonte King - Has yet to play in first three games.
F - Adama Ndiaye - Out 4-6 weeks with fractured finger.
G - Branduinn Fullove - Out minimum of 2-4 weeks with ankle sprain.

The Gauchos & Bruins
The Gauchos enter Wednesday's game at UCLA with a record of 0-17 against the Bruins. The schools have not played since the 1979-80 campaign when UCLA recorded a 102-58 victory.

The Young And The Restless
Through three games, UCSB is using their youngsters at an alarming rate. When I say youngsters, I mean freshmen and sophomores. Actually, there is nothing alarming about it, but it is interesting. Including Branduinn Fullove, who played 25 minutes in the opener at Pepperdine before spraining his ankle, freshmen have recorded 213 of the team's 625 total minutes, 34.1%. Sophomores have played 184 minutes, 29.4%. Combined, the UCSB underclassmen, not to be confused with the underclass, has played 397 minutes, 63.5% of this season's available minutes. Last year, Mark Hull became the first freshman to lead the Gauchos in minutes played and this season he is once more leading the way. Hull has logged 104 minutes in three games, an average of 34.7 per contest. Statistically, sophomores and freshmen have combined for 68.9% of UCSB's points (124 of 180).

Gauchos On A Free Throw Rollercoaster
As a team, UCSB is shooting 72.1% from the free throw line, an improvement over last season's mark of 69.0%, but it has come in rollercoaster fashion. In their two road games, the opener and then Saturday's game at BYU, the Gauchos combined to make 36-of-43 shots from the charity stripe, an outstanding 83.7%. In their lone home game, an overtime loss to USF, UCSB made only 13-of-25, 52.0%.

Shooting Blanks
After three games, the Gauchos are shooting only 36.2%. They hit their high-water mark at home against USF when they made a modest 43.1% (28-of-65). In two road games, they have made only 31-of-98 shots, a meager 31.6%. Five regulars (Mike Vukovich, Casey Cook, Jacoby Atako, Juliano Jordani and Nick Jones) are shooting below 40.0% and only one, LaRon Bryant at 9-of-18 (50.0%), is shooting better than 45.0%.

The Hull Truth
Mark Hull is UCSB's leading returning scorer at 10.3 points per game and after scoring a career-high 21 points at BYU Saturday, he is leading the team this season with a 16.0 points per game average. In fact, in his last two games, Hull has averaged 19.5 points per game, scoring 18 and 21, two of his four highest point totals ever. As mentioned above, he leads the team in minutes played and his minute totals of 35, 34 and 35 minutes are the three highest totals of his career. In addition to his career-best 21 points at BYU, Hull made a career-high 12 free throws (on 13 attempts) against the Cougars, hitting his first 12 before missing the last one he took.

Ward Of the Court
In the preseason, both practices and games, sophomore B.J. Ward struggled somewhat. He came into the season as the Gauchos starter at the point, but he was being pushed by freshman Jacoby Atako. After the team's opener at Pepperdine on Sunday, Ward was still the starter at the point guard position. After his efforts in the last two games, he has solidified his spot in the starting lineup. In the last two games, Ward has averaged 11.0 points, 4.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. He has also made 7-of-15 shots, a solid 46.7%. By scoring 12 and ten points in the last two games, Ward has put together back-to-back double-digit efforts for the first time in his career. While he has shown marked improvement overall from last year, one of the most obvious areas of improvement has been his performance at the free throw line. Last season, he made only 47.5% from the free throw line, and that included a 6-for-6 performance in the opener against Stanford. This year, Ward has drilled 13-of-16, 81.2%. As a freshman, the 6-foot-1 graduate of Santa Clara High School in Oxnard averaged 13.3 minutes per game and this season he is playing more than double that at 26.7 per game. In the last two games he played 28 and 29 respectively, each a new career-best. Ward also leads the team in steals with six.

Isn't This A Contact Sport?
In the first three games of the season, junior Mike Vukovich has learned the hard way that basketball is not, necessarily, a contact sport. Taking over for the injured Adama Ndiaye, Vukovich fouled out of the season-opener at Pepperdine in only 16 minutes. Last week against USF, he fouled out in 25 minutes. On Saturday at BYU he set a career-high with 27 minutes played, fouling out for a third game in a row. In 68 minutes, Vukovich has committed 15 fouls, an average of one foul per 4.5 minutes. While he is averaging 5.0 fouls per game, he is also averaging 5.7 points and 5.0 rebounds. On the bright side, Vukovich leads the team with six blocked shots, the only six blocked shots that the team has produced this season.

Cooking Up Some Improvement
Since going scoreless with two rebounds in the season-opener at Pepperdine, freshman forward Casey Cook has made some solid strides. Another player thrust into the regular rotation since the injury to Ndiaye, Cook has averaged 7.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. In last week's overtime defeat to USF, he pulled down a team-high nine rebounds, equaling the highest total by a Gaucho freshman in the last seven years.

With An Assist From Atako
Freshman point guard Jacoby Atako has had his troubles shooting the ball this year. He has had a bundle of in-and-out shots enroute to his 4-for-19 (21.1%) performance from the field. Despite his shooting woes, Atako has been an important part of the UCSB offense. He leads the team with 14 assists in 70 minutes, an average of 4.7 per game. He has led the Gauchos in assists in each of the last two games, averaging 6.0 per game over that span. Making his assist figure even more impressive is the fact that he has produced only six turnovers in three games, an average of 2.0 per outing. Atako's 2.35-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is the best on the team.

Searching For Offense Inside
Perhaps the primary reason for UCSB's offensive struggles (60.0 points per game and a field goal percentage of 36.2%) has been the absence of offense from post players. The starting frontcourt of Mike Vukovich and Juliano Jordani has combined for only 27 points in three games, an average of 9.0 per game. In the three games, they have made only 11-of-35 shots from the field, 31.4%. Amazingly, while Jordani and Vukovich have combined for only 27 points, they have also combined for 28 personal fouls.

Road Block
Mike Vukovich has blocked six shots on the season, exactly 100.0% of the UCSB total on the year. Gaucho opponents have swatted 19 shots, including 16 in the last two games. In fact, the opposition's starting centers in the last two games (USF's Hondre Brewer and BYU's Mekeli Wesley) have rejected eight and five respectively.

A Steal At Any Cost
As has been a tradition with UCSB since Bob Williams became head coach in 1998, this year's Gauchos are once again piling up impressive steal totals. Led by B.J. Ward who has come up with six steals and LaRon Bryant who has five, the Gauchos have produced 27 steals in three games, an average of 9.0 per game. Six UCSB players have three or more steals and as a team, the Gauchos have had at least eight in each game. Last year, they averaged 7.54 steals per contest.

On The Horizon
Following their game at UCLA on Wednesday, the Gauchos will return home for a three game homestand. UCSB will host crosstown opponent Westmont College on Saturday, December 2 at 7:00 p.m. They will also host San Diego State (Wednesday, December 6) and USC (Saturday, December 9) before returning to the road.