Feb. 1, 2003
Tonight the UCSB men's basketball team takes on a struggling Long Beach team that is stuck at the very bottom of the Big West. They are 2-15 on the season and 1-7 in conference play. Santa Barbara has won four games in a row and is 6-2 in the Big West. This places the Gauchos in a first place tie with Utah State. The game will be played at the Pyramid in Long Beach and will be broadcast on KEYT 1250.
UCSB Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting at the guard positions for the Gauchos will be Jacoby Atako, Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones. All three guards had outstanding games against Irvine as Jones and Fullove excelled on the offensive end while Atako played great defensively. Fullove finished with 22 points on 8 of 10 shooting against the Anteaters. Jones was the only other Gaucho to finish in double figures by scoring 13 points. Jones drilled three three-pointers in the contest and also snagged three steals. Atako paced the team defensively as they squad held UCI's top four scorers to a .267 field goal percentage. Atako also chipped in nine points and dished out six assists en route to what may have been his best game so far this season. Down low for Santa Barbara will be the best three-point shooter in UCSB history, Mark Hull, and the quietly emerging sophomore Casey Cook. Hull tied a school record against Irvine by drilling his 196th three-pointer while putting the clamps on Irvine's leading scorer, Jordan Harris. Cook had a rough day offensively for Santa Barbara going 0-6 from the floor. However, he pulled down a team high five rebounds and dished out two assists. More importantly, Cook handled the Anteater big-men inside, keeping them off the glass and limiting their scoring opportunities.
Long Beach State Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the backcourt for the 49ers will likely be Jibril Hodges and Tony Darden. Hodges, a freshman and recent addition to the starting lineup, scored a career high 12 points last game against Cal Poly. On the season he is averaging around four points per game and has connected on 17 of 52 three-point attempts. Darden is the leading scorer for Long Beach with 14.8 points per game. Most of his points come from the outside where he has drilled 51 three-pointers. His shooting percentage and three-point percentage and almost identical, so look for him to bomb away from beyond the arc. At the forward positions for Long Beach will be Kevin Roberts and Antoine Jackson. Roberts is second on the team in scoring at 12.5 points per game and is the only other player scoring in double digits. He is also the leading rebounder for Long Beach averaging 5.7 boards per contest. Jackson is averaging 4.3 points per game and has a field goal percentage of .585. He is the team's second leading rebounder, grabbing four rebounds per game, and he has blocked a team high 17 shots. At the center position for Long Beach will be Vance Lawhorn. Lawhorn is third on the team in scoring at 8.1 points per game and he is bringing in 3.9 rebounds per contest.
Scouting the 49ers:
Long Beach enters tonight's game in a bit of a slump. On the season the 49ers are 2-15 and in Big West play they are 1-7. Long Beach has won just one game in its last 15 contests and is currently on a four game slide. Darden in the leading scorer for Long Beach and he seems to be about as confident from the three point line as the Gauchos. He'll shoot the rock from downtown, no questions asked. Of the team's 95 three-pointers on the season, Darden has made more then half. The Gauchos will need to keep the pressure on him outside. Inside for Long Beach is Kevin Roberts. Roberts is the second leading scorer for the 49ers and he prefers to stay inside the three-point line. Roberts is very good at getting himself to the line where he has knocked down a team high 54 free throws. If Santa Barbara can put the clamp on these two scorers, the game should be good as won, and UCSB should maintain their position atop the Big West.
Scouting the Gauchos:
Long Beach State always plays the Gauchos tough so if Santa Barbara wants to emerge still tied for first place, they will have to bring the same intensity to the Pyramid that they have had the past four games. Fullove is hot right now after dropping 8 of 10 from the field against Irvine. After going through a shooting slump from outside, Fullove has found the touch and is putting the ball through the net at an impressive rate. Three-point baskets definitely seem to be favored by UCSB. As a team, Santa Barbara is shooting .395 from downtown. Interestingly, over the past couple games, the Gauchos have outrebounded opponents enough to almost even their team rebounding margin. Credit the intensity and tenacity that Coach Williams instills in the Gauchos for that statistic. Defensively, Santa Barbara is steadily lowering their opponents' points per game and shooting percentage. In the last two games they have allowed teams to shoot just 42% and 35% from the floor.
The key match-up in tonight's game will be Jacoby Atako against Tony Darden. Darden, a 6'4" senior, is the centerpiece in the Long Beach offense. Too bad for the 49ers, he'll draw Atako, who is turning out to be an absolute blessing on the defensive end. His defense seems to be getting stronger and stronger every game, and it is showing up in two categories: opponents' shooting percentage and wins. If Atako can shut down Darden like he has the other Big West guards over the past two weeks, Santa Barbara will leave the Pyramid with a victory.
What to look for:
Look for the Gauchos to come out smoking. After destroying Irvine, in Irvine, Santa Barbara has tasted first place in the Big West. Don't think for a second that they are satisfied though. Coach Williams will typically have the guys fired up, and the crowd at the Pyramid will help. Look for three-point bombs, look for Hull to break the school record, and look for intense, in-your-face defense. Then watch UCSB climb on the bus for a sweet ride home as first-place leaders in the Big West conference.