March 7, 2002
Anaheim, Calif. -
UC Santa Barbara entered its first round Big West Tournament game against Cal Poly with an eight-game winning streak against the Mustangs. In fact, Gaucho head coach Bob Williams had never lost to his team's Central Coast rival. Eventually something is going to give.
But not on Thursday night.
UCSB used outstanding offensive balance and huge advantages at the free throw line and on the boards to defeat Cal Poly 74-65 in the first round of the 2002 Big West Tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The Gauchos jumped-out to a 2-0 lead to open the game, and after the Mustangs tied the score at two apiece, they took a lead that they never relinquished. UCSB, led by guard Nick Jones who had 11 points, led by as many as nine points in the first half but settled for a 30-26 halftime lead.
Santa Barbara and Cal Poly traded baskets for the first six minutes of the second half. When forward David Henry was fouled as he hit a leaner from the free throw line and then converted the free throw with 16:04 remaining in the game, the Mustangs had pulled to within two at 35-33. That's when UCSB made the charge that essentially put the game away.
Cal Poly guard Steve Geary stemmed the tide by hitting a three-pointer from near the top of the key with 14:01 to go, cutting the lead to 42-36. UCSB, however, responded. Forward Adama Ndiaye was fouled going up for a follow and he hit a pair of free throws to make it 44-36. After a Mustang miss, Atako fed the ball into forward Mike Vukovich. He was fouled going up for a shot and made another pair of free throws making the score 46-36 with exactly 13:00 to play. The next time down, it was Fullove's turn to go to the free throw line for a pair. He made one of two and it was 47-36.
With 10:34 left, Ndiaye put up a short jumper that bounced off the rim, but Vukovich was there for the tip-in. After a turnover, Fullove hit a hanging jumper in the lane, completing a 9-0 run and giving the Gauchos a 51-36 lead with 9:56 left in the game. Overall, UCSB went on a 16-3. Cal Poly would make four three-point baskets in the final 1:08 to pull to within seven, 72-65 with 11 seconds left, but their last gasp wasn't enough.
UCSB pounded the Mustangs on the boards, 45-28. In addition, the Gauchos converted 27-of-36 shots from the free throw line compared to Cal Poly's 7-of-16. While many of Santa Barbara's free throws came in the closing minutes as Cal Poly fouled intentionally, the advantage was sizable.
Five UCSB players were in double-figures led by Hull who had 16 points. Fullove had 13 points and nine rebounds. Ndiaye, who also had a game-high nine rebounds, and Jones had 11 points apiece. Atako had ten points to go with his team-high four assists.
Another reason for the Gauchos' success was the defensive job they did on Cal Poly forward Varnie Dennis. UCSB held the Mustangs' leading scorer to just two points in the first half and ten points overall. He hit just 4-of-11 shots from the field. David Henry paced Cal Poly with 15 points.
"I thought the job we did on Varnie Dennis in the first half and in the first ten minutes of the second half was outstanding," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "Adama (Ndiaye) did a great job and we were very good and consistent at doubling-down hard on him."
The victory is UCSB's third in a row and sixth in the last eight games. They improve to 18-10 on the season. It was also the Gauchos' first Big West Tournament win since 1999 when they defeated Utah State in the first round. Santa Barbara will take on UC Irvine in the second round of the tournament on Friday night at 8:30 p.m. in the Anaheim Convention Center.