Dec. 21, 2003
RENO, Nev. -
UC Santa Barbara senior guard Branduinn Fullove returned from an injured left ankle on December 13 in the Gauchos' game against the University of San Diego, but he didn't really come back until Sunday night's game against Alabama State at the Dodge Holiday Classic in Reno.
Fullove scored UCSB's first 12 points and finished with a game-high 23 to lead the Gauchos past Alabama State, 63-53. Fullove, however was not alone in the come back department. Fellow senior guard Nick Jones made his season debut after missing the first eight games with a suspension. He was second on the team in scoring with 12 points.
"It felt like old times," Fullove said with a smile. "We were doing the things that just come natural to us. Nick and I know when and where to look for each other. We've been doing it for three years. This was fun."
Fullove scored his first two points on the night from the free throw line, tying the score at 2-2 with 18:20 left in the first half. A little more than a half minute later he made a jumper from just inside the free throw line to make it 4-2 and then with 17:06 left, he made his first three-point basket of the season to give UCSB a 7-2 lead. After the Hornets' Jermaine Smith made a shot from just inside the three-point arc, Fullove hit another three-pointer and a lay-up to give the Gauchos a 12-4 edge.
After weathering Fullove's barrage, Alabama State scored nine straight points and when Herbert Warren scored on a slashing lay-up to cap the rally, the Hornets led 13-12.
Now it was Jones' turn to impact the game. With 10:34 to go in the first half, he shook the Gauchos out of their doldrums and helped them regain the lead, 15-13, by nailing a three-pointer from the top of the key. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the first half and when Fullove hit a baseline leaner with 34 second to go, UCSB was able to go into the locker room with a 28-26 advantage.
Alabama State jumped out quickly in the second half, outscoring the Gauchos 9-3 over the first 3:02 to take a 35-31 lead. UCSB responded with a 23-8 run over a ten minute span. Jones scored seven points in the stretch, including another three-point basket, and Fullove scored six. The Gaucho lead never went below nine from that point on.
"I liked the way we came out in the second half," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "We haven't had a lot of luck in the second games of tournaments over the last couple of years and these guys were determined not to let that happen again."
Fullove and Jones combined to make 13-of-22 shots overall (59.1%), 4-of-7 from three-point territory (57.1%), for 35 points. Jones added three rebounds in his debut and Fullove passed off for a pair of assists.
While it was the senior duo which led the way, they were not alone. Junior forward Casey Cook scored eight points and had six rebounds in just 22 minutes of play. Senior forward Bray Skultety had a season-high five points and five rebounds before fouling out in 12 minutes of action. Sophomore guard Josh Davis had six points, three reboiunds and a pair of assists and another sophomore guard, Joe See, had just three points, but he also had a game-high five assists.
UCSB figured to have its primary 12-man roster available for the first time this season, but sophomore guard Cecil Brown was sidelined with a sprained left ankle.
As a team, the Gauchos shot 43.4% from the field, including 48.0% in the second half. They outrebounded the Hornets 34-32 and they committed just eight turnovers, a season-low. Alabama State, which is now 2-6 on the year, shot 37.5% from the floor.
With his game-high 23 points, Fullove became the 11th UCSB player to eclipse the 1,200 point mark and he passed a pair of former players to move into the 11th spot on the all-time list. With his 12 points, Jones moved within 11 points of becoming the 20th player in school history to score 1,000 career points.
Despite missing Fullove and Jones for most of the preseason, the Gauchos end that portion of their schedule with a solid 6-3 record. Included among the six wins were road wins at UCLA and Hawaii, and a key home win over Pepperdine. UCSB will now take several days off for Christmas. The Gauchos do not return to the court until they open Big West Conference play on Saturday, January 3 at Long Beach State.