Tonight's Game: UC Santa Barbara at UC Irvine
Jan. 30, 2003
Tonight the UCSB men's basketball team takes on UC Irvine, who is tied with the Gauchos for second place in the Big West. Santa Barbara has won three games in a row and is 5-2 in the Big West. Irvine is 5-2 in conference play as well and has won eight of their last 10 games. The game will be played at UCI's Bren Center and will be broadcast on KEYT 1250.
UCSB Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the backcourt for the Gauchos will be the trio of Jacoby Atako, Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones. Atako has been the floor general throughout the season. He brings a scoring average of 4.5 points per game and he leads the team with 58 assists and 16 steals on the season. Fullove is leading the team in scoring with 15.2 points per game and he is coming off one of his best games of the season. Against Cal Poly Fullove scored 16 points, pulled down seven rebounds and dished out four assists. Jones has steadily been cooling off after an outstanding start but he still contributes 13 points per game. Additionally, Jones is leading the team in rebounding and has drilled 38 three-pointers. On the blocks for UCSB will be Mark Hull and Casey Cook. Hull just propelled himself into fourth place all-time in the Gaucho record books by scoring his 1,400 point. He had an outstanding game against Cal Poly by recording just his second double double of the season. Cook has been playing better each game during Big West competition. Cook has jumped into fourth on the team in scoring with 6.1 points per game and he has been grabbing 3.5 rebounds per game. He has also managed to cut back on the petty fouls that limited his playing time earlier in the season.
UC Irvine Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the backcourt for the Anteaters will be Jeff Gloger and Mike Hood. Gloger, a 6'4" freshman, leads the Big West in steals and is scoring 5.9 points per game. He also ranks fourth in the nation in steals by snatching 3.2 per game. Hood, a 6'4" senior is scoring 9.5 points per game and has connected on 100% of his free throws. Hood is really the only three-point threat for the Anteaters as he has dropped in 27 of his 70 attempts. Stanislav Zuzak and Jordan Harris will start at the forward spots and Adam Parada will be underneath the basket for Irvine. Zuzak is 6'10" and is bringing in 8.6 points per game. He is pulling down 3.1 rebounds for Irvine and has started the last five games. Harris is the scoring leader for the Anteaters by averaging 12.6 points per game. He has connected on 34% of his three-point attempts and has drilled 84% of his free throws. Parada is averaging 11.5 points per game and leads the Big West in field goal percentage at .623%. He has also pulled down a team high 54 boards on the year.
Scouting the Anteaters:
UC Irvine is currently tied for second place in the Big West with the Gauchos. The Anteaters have won eight of their last ten games and are undefeated at home. However, the Anteaters are coming off a disappointing loss to Cal State Northridge. Irvine is outscoring their opponents by seven points per game and is out rebounding opponents by three and a half boards. UCI will likely focus their offense on attacking the Gauchos inside. With a 7'0" player and a 6'10" player on the court, the Anteaters should be able to crash the boards extremely hard and they should also draw a lot of fouls. However, on the season Irvine has attempted seven fewer free throws then their opponents. UCI doesn't seem to be much of a threat from outside as they only connect on 38% of their free throws. Additionally, they only throw up about six shots per game from beyond the arc that go in. It is very doubtful that Santa Barbara will have to worry about losing the three-point battle.
Scouting the Gauchos:
The key for Santa Barbara tonight will be their ability to keep the taller Irvine players off the glass. This isn't something new for the undersized Gauchos though, as they have consistently been shorter then the teams they have played. The good news is, UCSB plays with more intensity then their opponents and they flat-out want the ball more. That is all it really comes down to. Fullove, Jones, and Hull, will all crash the boards harder then any player on the other side of the ball. If his happens, and if the Gauchos can keep playing the stellar defense that they have been playing, Santa Barbara will take second place for itself. In the last 15 games, UCSB has held 12 opponents to shooting percentages below 45. The Gaucho's field goal percentage defense ranks atop the Big West at 41.5% per game. Other good news for Santa Barbara is Fullove is hot again. After a nasty streak from outside, Fullove has caught fire and has regained the touch he started the season with. This takes a ton of the pressure off of Hull and Jones, now they are getting better looks at the basket. Lastly, if you want to hang with UCSB, you have to control their bench. Josh Davis, Chrismen Oliver and Cecil Brown have each had standout games during Big West play and all are fully capable of exploding at any second.
The match-up tonight that should be focused on will be Mark Hull vs. Jordan Harris. Many might wonder how the key to the game couldn't be the inside players seeing as Irvine is so much taller, however, Santa Barbara has been presented this problem throughout Big West play and they have overcome the challenge every time. Nothing will change in that category. What remains important is shutting down Irvine's leading scorer Harris. Harris and Hull match-up well against each other so it is likely they will be shadowing their counterpart throughout the night. In the last three games Harris has scored 56 points to propel him into the team lead in scoring. To counter that, Hull has been hot of late as well. Last game he recorded his second double double of the season, scoring 18 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
What to look for:
Look for an all out battle between two teams trying desperately to reach the pinnacle of the Big West standings. Santa Barbara and Irvine are evenly matched and both have players that are hot right now. If Santa Barbara can jump out to an early lead, much like the trend this season, the Gauchos will be hard to beat. Also, look for Santa Barbara to bring the defensive intensity to the Bren Center. Coach Williams has this team fired up on the defensive end of the floor and it is paying off impressively.