Jan. 2, 2003
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -
Home is where the heart is, and for the UC Santa Barbara basketball team, it is also where the wins are.
Senior forward Mark Hull scored 16 points and freshman guard Josh Davis added a career-high 14 as the Gauchos made their first home appearance in 30 days a successful one, defeating UC Riverside in the Big West opener for both teams, 65-49.
Playing without All-Big West guard Branduinn Fullove who is nursing a pulled groin, UCSB struggled early, but used a balanced attack to pull away in the second half. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Gauchos.
Trailing 17-10 with 13:28 remaining in the first half, the Gauchos used a 17-3 run to take a seven-point lead, 27-20. Davis, who had not made a three-point basket in the first ten games, scored eight of the 17 points, including a pair of three-pointers. UCSB took a 32-25 lead into halftime and never looked back.
The Gauchos outscored the Highlanders 7-2 to start the second half, taking a commanding 39-27 lead with 17:02 remaining. UCR was able to cut the gap to 46-40 with 10:18 left, but they were unable to get any closer.
"We weren't perfect tonight, but I thought we came out and really played hard for 40 minutes," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "We have had trouble putting teams away in the second half of games and tonight we were able to do that. Josh (Davis) and Chrismen (Oliver) really gave us a lift in both halves."
In scoring his career-high 14 points, Davis was perfect from the field overall at 5-for-5, perfect from three-point range at 2-for-2, and perfect from the free throw line at 2-for-2. The graduate of Elk Grove High School in Sacramento played a career-high 24 minutes and also added three assists and a pair of rebounds. Oliver tied his career-high with five assists and he drilled a key there-point basket midway through the second half that squelched a Highlander rally.
"Without Branduinn (Fullove), I knew it was important that I give us quality minutes right when I got into the game," Davis commented. "I felt comfortable and confident when I got in and my teammates put me into positions to be successful. I just relaxed and took advantage of the opportunities."
In addition to his game-high 16 points, Hull added seven rebounds and five assists. Junior guard Nick Jones struggled with his shooting, hitting just 5-of-14 shots from the floor, but he had 13 points, four rebounds and three steals. Sophomore Casey Cook, making his second start at the five spot, had eight points and a season-high eight rebounds. Junior Bryan Whitehead came off the bench to score just three points, but he did have six rebounds. Cook and Whitehead combined for 40 minutes and 14 rebounds. Freshman guard Cecil Brown, also making his second start, scored eight points.
UCR was led by guard Kevin Butler who scored 13 points and had four assists. Freshman Nate Carter, the Big West-leader in scoring average entering the game, was limited to 11 points, seven below his season average. As a team, the Highlanders made just 17-of-49 shots from the field, 34.7%. The Gauchos hit 47.2% and outrebounded UCR, 35-30.
UCSB returns to action on Saturday when it hosts Cal State Fullerton at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome. The status of Fullove remains doubtful for the game against the Titans as well.