Dec. 13, 2003
Santa Barbara, Calif. - Tonight UC Santa Barbara completes a three-game home stand against the University of San Diego after winning the first two games, one against Pepperdine and the next against Westmont. The two victories moved the Gauchos over the .500 mark on the season to a 3-2 record overall. The Toreros are coming off a victory over Southwest Missouri State that improved their record to 2-6 on the season. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on KTMS 990 AM.
UC Santa Barbara Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for UC Santa Barbara will be Jacoby Atako, Cecil Brown, and Josh Davis. Atako scored just two points in the Gauchos' win over Westmont, but his defense was key in causing 16 Warrior turnovers. Brown led all scorers in the Westmont game with 16 points, equaling his previous career-high, which he notched against Pepperdine. His scoring average has increased to 11.2 points per game and he remains second on the team behind Cook. Davis has come on strong defensively and played one of the best games of his career against Westmont. Davis scored nine points and pulled down three rebounds to go along with six assists against the Warriors. At certain points in the game he seemed to be the only steady player on the floor for either team. His season average is up to 6.2 points per game and his ten assists are second to Atako's 12. Starting on the blocks for UCSB will be Casey Cook and Cameron Goettsche. Cook still leads the team in scoring and rebounding with 11.4 points and seven rebounds per game. Against Westmont Cook dropped in just five points but pulled down six rebounds as well. Goettsche played very well against the Warriors going 3-for-4 from the floor and scoring nine points. More importantly, he pulled down a game and career-high 11 rebounds, four on the offensive end of the floor. Finally, it is possible that tonight may mark the return of the 2002-03 Big West Player of the Year Branduinn Fullove. The senior guard has been out with an ankle injury for the past five games and he may be healthy enough to take the floor for the first time this season tonight.
San Diego's Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for San Diego will be junior Brett Melton and freshman Michael Hubbard. Melton is averaging 10.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. The transfer from Illinois is fourth on the team in scoring and is excellent from three-point range. Hubbard has started the last four games for San Diego at the point and is averaging 5.6 points per game. His 25 assists and seven steals both rank second on the team. At the forward positions for the Toreros will be junior Mike McGrain and sophomore Nick Lewis. McGrain, though averaging just four points per game, leads the team with 43 assists and 11 steals on the season. Lewis is USD's second leading scorer and rebounder with 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. At the center position for San Diego will be junior Brice Vounang. Vounang has been the key for the Toreros throughout the beginning of this season, leading the team in most statistical categories. He is averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He has connected on 55-of-106 shots from the floor for a team-leading .519 shooting percentage.
Scouting the Gauchos
Through five games the Gauchos have definitely had their ups and downs, playing very well near the coast, against Hawaii and at home, while playing poorly in Montana, accounting for both of their losses. Tonight's game concludes the home stand for Santa Barbara before the Gauchos take off for UCLA and Nevada, so count on UCSB coming out fired up. Leading the way will be Cook and Brown who have been the go-to players for Santa Barbara in the absence of seniors Fullove and Nick Jones. The two have each taken almost twice as many shots as all the other players and their combined 22.6 points per game is more than a third of the Gauchos' 62. Aside from Cook and Brown, hot hands offensively belong to Joe See and Bryan Whitehead. See, a sophomore transfer, has scored 22 points in the last two games while Whitehead has gone 7-for-9 from the floor and scored 15 points. Additionally, Santa Barbara is starting to do some things very well as a team, such as defense and rebounding. The Gauchos are holding opponents to less then 40% shooting from the floor and less than 35% from behind the arc. On the boards, UCSB is winning the war by an average of four rebounds per game, 37-33.
Scouting the Toreros
Scouting the Toreros is fairly easy, shut down Vounang and penetrate the 3-2 zone. Vounang is clearly the first option offensively for USD. He has 29 more shot attempts than any other player, he gets to the free throw line where he knocks down 67% of his attempts, and he rebounds well, both offensively and defensively. Aside from Vounang, the Gauchos need to take note of Melton and Brad Lechtenberg, the three-point threats for San Diego. Melton leads the team with 19 on the season and has attempted 53. Lechetenberg is 17-for-44. Only two other Toreros have made a three pointer on the season, and their total is seven. Defensively, USD often comes out in a 3-2 zone, something the Gauchos got to see a little bit against Westmont. As long Atako and fellow point guard Chrismen Oliver can penetrate and shooters like See, Brown and Fullove can spot up, Santa Barbara shouldn't have too much trouble beating the zone.
Key Match Up
The key match-up in tonight's game will be the Gaucho forwards against Brice Vounang. It definitely seems like the offense runs through Vounang for USD, so Santa Barbara needs to be aware of him at all times. The rotating trio of Cook, Goettsche and Whitehead will all spend time trying to keep the ball out of Vounang's hands. Also, Vounang will have to play defense on Cook, something that has proven difficult through the first five games of the season. If Cook can get Vounang into foul trouble, USD will have a hard time keeping up with the Gauchos.
What To Look For
First and foremost, look for the return of the Big West Player of the Year Branduinn Fullove. Everyone has been anticipating his return since hurting his ankle in the second pre-season game of the season. Fullove is the epitome of a complete player. His offense is needed as well as his natural ability to make everyone on the floor around him better. Also, look for Santa Barbara to come out hot as they ride a two-game winning streak and look to stay undefeated at the Thunderdome this season.