Tonight's Game: UC Santa Barbara at Utah State

Jan. 11, 2003

Tonight the Gauchos take on the Aggies from Utah State in a 7:00 pm match-up in Utah's Dee Glen Spectrum. Santa Barbara (5-8, 2-1) is coming off a 62-53 victory over Idaho. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2 and will be broadcast on KEYT 1250.

UCSB Probable Starting Lineup:
Santa Barbara has returned to its consistent starting lineup so plan on seeing the regulars against Utah State. Jacoby Atako will run the point for the Gauchos. Atako went 2-4 against Idaho and finished with five points. On the season he is averaging 4.2 points and he leads the team with 40 assists and 13 steals. Fullove will be back at the wing again where he leads the team in scoring. At Idaho, Fullove scored 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting. On the season he is averaging just above 16 points per game. The other wing will be Nick Jones. Jones has been one of the most consistent players for the Gauchos this season averaging 14 points per game and leading the team in rebounding. Against Idaho, Jones scored 11 points and pulled down five rebounds. On the blocks for UCSB will be Mark Hull and Casey Cook. Hull led the Gauchos against Idaho with 21 points on 8 of 11 shooting. He also had four assists and went 2-5 from behind the arc. Cook also had a great game against the Vandals scoring 10 points and ripping down five boards.

Utah State Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting at guard for the Aggies will be Mark Brown and Ronnie Ross. Brown is averaging nine points per contest and is also getting 4.6 rebounds. Ross is getting 6.5 points per game and scored 12 points in Utah State's last game against Cal Poly. On the blocks for Utah State will be Desmond Peniger and Toraino Johnson. Peniger is a contender for Big West Player of the year after being selected to the Big West first-team last season. This year he is averaging 16.4 points per game and is pulling down 6.6 rebounds. Johnson is scoring 6.9 points per game. Playing center for the Aggies will be Spencer Nelson. Nelson is leading the team in rebounding with 6.9 rebounds per game and he is also scoring 9.3 points.

Scouting the Aggies:
The first key to dealing with the Aggies is controlling Desmond Peniger. Peniger has notched 14 career 20-point games and has scored in double figures 40 of 45 games. Peniger is the only Aggie that is averaging double figures in scoring this season. In addition to dealing with Peniger, the Gauchos will have to contend with the 12th ranked scoring defense in the country. The Aggies are 15th in rebound margin at +8.8, and 20th in turnovers per game at 12.6 per contest as well. These national rankings let the Gauchos know that they will have to hit the boards hard and they will see some serious pressure defense.

Scouting the Gauchos:
Santa Barbara is very happy to have Branduinn Fullove back. The scoring offense comes so much easier when he is around. Hull is catching fire as of late, scoring 21 last night and 21 against Fullerton. The Gauchos need to keep getting him the ball and the return of Fullove helps this happen. Other then Hull and Fullove, Jones will always contribute to the offense for UCSB. His 14 points per game are a standard, as is his ability to hit the boards harder then any player on the floor. Casey Cook is catching on too. Against Idaho he was 5-7 and scored 10 points in 21 minutes. If he can keep contributing the overall offense of the Gauchos is much more dynamic.

Key Match-up:
The key match-up tonight will be how the Gauchos will deal with Desmond Peniger. Likely Coach Williams will throw a couple of guys at him in hopes of slowing him down, to begin, either Casey Cook or Mark Hull. Likely Hull will get most of the time against Peniger as he is the most agile of the Gaucho big men. If Hull can aggravate him on the offensive end and keep him off the glass as best he can, UCSB will benefit greatly.

What to look for:
Look for a very good game. Both teams are 2-1 in the Big West and both have a lot at stake. Although UCSB was picked to win the conference, Utah State has some extremely talented players and is playing good basketball as of now. Look for the Gauchos to get out and run the Aggies in hopes of opening up the game. Obviously Utah State has taller players but Santa Barbara is faster. If the Gauchos can push the ball and get open looks, the game can go either way.