Dec. 10, 2003
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Tonight UC Santa Barbara battles cross-town rival Westmont in a traditional pre-season match-up. The Gauchos are coming off an exciting last-second victory over Pepperdine that evened their record at 2-2 on the year. The victory was the first for Santa Barbara in the Thunderdome this season and was the 23rd win at home in the last 27 tries. Westmont enters tonight's game after losing a Saturday night battle to Biola, 82-59. The loss dropped Westmont's record to 3-2 on the year. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on KTLK 1340 AM.
UC Santa Barbara Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for the Gauchos will be the same three guards that led Santa Barbara into battle against coastal rival Pepperdine. Jacoby Atako will assume his standard role as point guard, despite the fact that his season has been anything but standard. The typically consistent Atako has been up and down through the first four games this year, breaking career marks in games one and three, while staying inconspicuous in games two and four. Despite the roller coaster ride, Atako is third on the team in scoring with 9.3 points per game and he leads in the assist category with 10. In games one and three, Atako averaged 18 points per game, so hopefully he'll continue his odd-game trend and show up tonight in the scoring column. Alongside Atako will be sophomore guards Cecil Brown and Josh Davis. Brown is second on the team in scoring with an average of 10.0 points per game. He has been the most consistent of the Gauchos in terms of playing time as he leads the team with an average of 29.8 minutes per game and he is second to Atako with eight assists. Davis is scoring 5.5 points per game but his biggest contribution has come on the defensive end of the floor. Davis has been bodying up with both small and power forwards defensively, and his success has helped the Gauchos earn their two victories. On the blocks for Santa Barbara will be junior Casey Cook and sophomore Cameron Goettsche. Cook has been an offensive force through the first four games of the season, increasing his career-highs in both scoring and rebounding. He leads the team offensively with 13 points per game and he also leads in rebounding with 7.2 per contest. Goettsche, although only averaging six points per game, has been an offensive spark plug for UCSB, managing to get to the rim at the most opportune times for the Gauchos. In last week's victory over Pepperdine, Goettsche scored four of the final seven points for Santa Barbara, making a lay-up and then following a missed shot with a tremendous put-back dunk.
Westmont Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for the Warriors will likely be Kyle Bechler and Aaron Tudor. Bechler is second on the team in scoring with 13.8 points per game and he has been their best three-point shooter, sinking 14-of-31 threes. Tudor is scoring 7.6 points per contest and has eight assists on the season. At the forward positions for the Warriors will be Kevin Blomstrom and Nick Debban. Blomstrom leads Westmont in scoring with 16.2 points per game. He is also the leading rebounder with an average of seven per game and he leads the team with 13 assists. Debban got his first start of the year in the loss to Biola and led the team in scoring with 13 points. On the year, he is averaging 13.2 points per game and his .595 shooting percentage also team-high. The center for Westmont will be Jeff Grgas. Grgas is averaging 12.4 points per game and 6.8 rebounds.
Scouting the Gauchos
UC Santa Barbara is back on the winning track after the exciting victory over Pepperdine. Maybe it was just the cold weather in Montana that held UCSB down, or maybe there is something about playing close to the ocean (Hawaii and Santa Barbara) that gets the Gauchos fired up, either way, after the victory over Pepperdine, Santa Barbara should come out hot tonight. Leading the way offensively has been Cook, with his 13 points and 7.2 boards per game. He has been the best scoring threat UC Santa Barbara has had to offer and somehow the ball managed to find his hands with 0.5 seconds remaining against Pepperdine. Atako should come out firing as well. Considering his up and down pace, tonight's game is number five on the season, so if his odd-game excellence continues, he'll do well tonight. Brown has become another key options offensively with Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones still out. His shots are beginning to fall with regularity and he is quick enough to beat people off the dribble once they start challenging him outside. Joe See is zoned in right now as well, the sophomore transfer leads Santa Barbara with seven three-pointers on the season and he came up big against the Waves in last week's game. Finally, Goettsche is quickly becoming a fan favorite in the Thunderdome, making a habit out of jumping over opponents for dunks and blocked shots. Look for the Gauchos to try and get him the ball anytime there is a fast break opportunity. On the defensive end of the floor, Davis has been one of keys to Santa Barbara's success in both of its victories. He has consistently been matched up against forwards both small and large and he has done a great job shutting them down and giving his team a chance to win.
Scouting the Warriors
Through their first five games, the Warriors appear to be doing some things well while struggling with others, leaving them with a 3-and-2 overall record. Westmont has outscored their opponents 186-to-163 in the first half, thus the team starts the game well. Unfortunately, they are having trouble finishing games as their opponents have outscored them 193-to-167 in the second halves of games. Offensively, Blomstrom and Bechler are the two that do the most damage. Blomstrom can score from all areas of the floor, having connected on 23-of-58 baskets inside the arc and 8-of-18 three-pointers. He leads the team with 27 free throws in 31 attempts, a .871 percentage. Bechler is the pure shooter, leading the team with 14 three-pointers in 31 tries and having a .465 field goal percentage. The whole team rebounds well as seven different players have pulled down double-digit rebound totals on the season. What the Warriors aren't doing well is defending. Opponents are shooting 45% from the floor and have connected on 47 three-point baskets. In last Saturday's loss to Biola, Westmont allowed Biola to shoot 60% in the second half and 59.3% for the game. If Westmont allows the Gauchos to fire away like that, the Warriors could be in for a long night.
Key Match Up
The key to tonight's game will be the match-up between the Gaucho big men and the Warrior big men. The offense for Westmont runs directly through the post-position as two forwards lead the team in assists. It will be crucial for Cook, Goettsche, Whitehead, and Skultety to defend the post and keep Westmont's forwards from creating scoring opportunities for the rest of the team. Conversely, if Westmont doesn't put a clamp on the Gaucho big men offensively, Cook and Goettsche will bang away down low, getting baskets, getting to the free throw line, and in turn, opening up outside shots for Santa Barbara's sharp-shooting guards.
What To Look For
Look for both teams to bring a good deal of intensity to the floor in tonight's battle as citywide bragging rights are at stake. Santa Barbara owns the season series 41-5, but every year is a new year and anything can happen on any given night. Look for the Gauchos to try and push the ball and get easy baskets in transition and look for Westmont to try and slow them down. Look for UCSB to continue its fine play in the Thunderdome but expect Westmont to make a game out of it, as bragging rights are always worth fighting for.