Feb. 3, 2001
Stockton, Calif. -
The University of the Pacific men's basketball roster is stocked with two regulars who are 6-foot-10 and another pair that stand 6-foot-9. The Tigers' style, at least to a certain degree, always revolves around their big post players.
UC Santa Barbara, on the other hand, has one regular who stands taller than 6-foot-7, and on Saturday, the 6-foot-9 Mike Vukovich stood taller than anyone.
Vukovich had one of the best games of any post player in UCSB history, making a school-record 12-for-12 from the field while finishing with a career-high 27 points Not only did he shine on the offensive end, but the Gaucho junior pulled down eight rebounds, blocked a pair of shots, passed off for three assists, and came up with two steals, leading UCSB to a 73-67 win at Pacific.
For Santa Barbara, it was Vukovich making key baskets in the beginning, helping the Gauchos jump to a 10-0 lead, and it was Vukovich in the end as he scored several key baskets and made some important free throws to help his team squelch a Tiger rally.
"Vuk really stepped-up in a big way tonight," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "He played the best offensive game of any post player since I have been here, and that is an understatement. He gave us the lead early and then helped us put it away late."
Vukovich was a primary reason for the Gaucho win, but he was not the only reason. UCSB shot 54.9% from the field, its second best performance of the season, and they limited the Tigers to 30.5%, the second lowest by a Gaucho opponent this year. UOP, in fact, was a miserable 8-for-30 from three-point range. The lone advantage that the Tigers had on the night was from the free throw line, where they outscored UCSB by ten.
The Gauchos jumped on Pacific right out of the gate, leading 10-0 only three minutes into the contest. Vukovich scored eight of the ten points and freshman Nick Jones scored the other two. UCSB led by as many as 14 in the first half, settling for an eight point lead at the break, 34-26.
The second half started out in much the same fashion as the Gauchos went on a 10-5 run to open things up, taking a 44-31 lead. The advantage stayed in double-figures for the next seven minutes and peaked at 15, 55-40, with 9:14 remaining in the game. At that point, Pacific, led by junior guard Maurice McLemore who scored seven, went on a 12-0 streak to draw to within 55-52 with 7:07 to go.
Ultimately, UOP's Peter Heizer made a layup with 2:24 left, cutting the lead to one, 63-62, but the Gauchos responded. Nick Jones scored on a breakaway layin and then, after a defensive stop, Vukovich scored on an acrobatic layup, was fouled and hit the free throw, making it 68-62 with 1:32 remaining. In the final minute, Vukovich made another basket while Branduinn Fullove and Mark Hull made their free throws to preserve the 73-67 win.
Jones was the only Gaucho to join Vukovich in double-figures, finishing with 13. Fullove had nine points and three rebounds and Hull added eight points, six rebounds and three assists. Freshman Casey Cook missed his first three shots, but then hit three of his final four to finish with six points.
Perhaps the most unsung contributor on the night was freshman point guard Jacoby Atako. While he made only 1-of-4 shots from the floor and finished with three points, he did a superb job of running the offense, finishing with six assists and only one turnover. As a team, UCSB had 19 assists and only 12 turnovers.
McLemore paced Pacific with 24 points, including 21 in the second half. Peter Heizer, despite making only 3-of-14 from the field, scored 15 points.
The victory was the Gauchos' third win in a row and their second in a row on the road. In addition, it also gave UCSB its first ever sweep of the Long Beach State-Pacific Big West road trip. They are now 5-4 in league play and 8-11 overall.
UCSB returns home now for a pair of games next weekend. On Thursday night, they will host the University of Idaho at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome. On Saturday, they will host Cal Poly, also at 7:00 p.m.