Feb. 4, 2004
Santa Barbara, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara Gauchos have set off on the first leg of the second half of the season, and in doing so, they have embarked on the most difficult road-trip of Big West play. Tonight UCSB takes on Idaho, before traveling to Utah to battle first-place Utah State. Santa Barbara enters tonight's game with an overall record of 12-6 and a conference mark of 6-3. The Gauchos are currently in third place and sit two games ahead of both UC Irvine and Long Beach State. Idaho has an overall record of 7-12 and a Big West record of 3-6. The Vandals are tied with Cal Poly, Northridge, and Riverside for sixth place. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on KTLK 1340 AM.
UC Santa Barbara Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for the Gauchos will be the senior trio of Jacoby Atako, Branduinn Fullove, and Nick Jones. Atako is averaging 5.9 points per game and leads the team in both steals (22) and assists (45). He has recently moved into seventh place all-time at Santa Barbara in assists with 355 and fifth place in steals with 114. Although struggling from the floor in last week's smashing of Cal State Fullerton, Atako is shooting 47.9% from the floor and 41.9% from behind the three-point line. Fullove, last year's Big West Player of the Year, is leading the Gauchos in conference play with a scoring average of 10.9 points per game. On the season, his average is 10.2 points per game, just 0.1 behind team-leading Casey Cook. Against Fullerton, Fullove scored nine points, which landed him squarely at 1,300 points for his career at UCSB. With 52 more, he will move into fifth place all-time. Jones has been struggling since coming back from suspension, averaging 7.4 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. At this time last year, he was one of the team leaders in both points and rebounds, but this year he has taken longer to get back into the flow. Jones has been spectacular from the free throw line where he has connected on 13-of-14 freebies, 92.9%. Starting on the blocks for UC Santa Barbara will be sophomore Cameron Goettsche and senior Bryan Whitehead. With Casey Cook still recovering from a leg injury, Goettsche and Whitehead will take the floor for the tip. Goettsche is averaging 8.2 points per game and is leading the team in rebounding with 5.5 per contest. He has scored in double figures six times in the last eight games while having four or more rebounds in 15 of the 18 games thus far. Whitehead has been tremendous on the glass where he is second in rebounding with 5.2 boards per game. He is chipping in 4.2 points and has blocked six shots on the year, the second highest total behind Goettsche's eight.
Idaho Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for the Vandals will be Dwayne Williams and Tanoris Sheppard. Williams, a 6-foot-1 senior, is averaging 9.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. He has connected on 44-of-116 three-point attempts, 37.9% and is shooting a tad bit higher from the floor, 38.1%. Sheppard is scoring 8.7 points per game overall and an even 10.0 in conference games alone. He is second on the team with 42 assists and he has connected on the second most three-pointers, 2, as well. Along with Williams and Sheppard, Idaho will start three forwards, Tyrone Hayes, Rashaad Powell, and Lionel Davis. Hayes leads the team in scoring with an average of 12.8 points per game. He is also the leading rebounder, 5.9 per game, while having the most blocks (15) and steals (18), on the season. Powell is averaging 6.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. He has connected on 40-of-80 shots from the floor and is second with 17 steals on the year. Davis is averaging 4.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. He has fallen off since the beginning of conference play but still remains a presence down low. His 13 blocks are second to Hayes and he recorded the team's first double-double Monday night against Idaho State.
Scouting the Gauchos
In concurrence with the fact that UCSB has been quite the inconsistent team this season, it is clear that the Gauchos are doing some things well, and some things poorly. In order to get the negative out of the way first, we can talk about how Santa Barbara has been one of the streakiest teams offensively in the Big West this season. You never know whether the Gauchos are going to come out and score 80+ points or less than 50, every night tells a different story. Part of the problem has been inefficiency from the free throw line. The forwards are good at drawing fouls and getting to the line, but the Gauchos are last in the league in converting the free chances. On the season, Santa Barbara is only connecting on 65% of its free throws. Fortunately, that is the only area -other than blocked shots-that pits the Gauchos as one of the poorest teams in the conference. On the positive side, Santa Barbara has done a tremendous job rebounding and scoring. The Gauchos rank second in rebounding, rebounding margin, and opponent rebounding. UC Santa Barbara understands the concept of boxing out and the coaches have made this a priority throughout the season. Additionally, the Gauchos are starting to put the ball in the basket at a more efficient rate, especially from behind the three-point line. UCSB leads the Big West in three-point field goal percentage at 40.5%, due in large part to the abilities of sophomore Joe See, who is now shooting 46.7% from behind the arc. Defensively, UC Santa Barbara has begun to step up the intensity as well, resulting in a second place standing in scoring defense and opponent three-point percentage defense.
Scouting the Vandals
In head-to-head comparison, the Vandals and Gauchos are very similar in a number of areas. While UCSB averages 65.8 points and 35.4 rebounds per game, Idaho averages 64.6 points and 34.4 rebounds per game. Santa Barbara averages one more steal and two more turnovers as well. In addition, both teams are riding two-game winning streaks. Idaho ranks around the middle of the pack in almost all of the statistical categories held by the Big West. The Vandals are ranked fifth in the league in rebounding, 34.3 per game, rebounding margin, +0.6, and in scoring defense, allowing 66.8 points per game. Idaho is fourth in free throw percentage, .705, and turnover margin, +0.1 per game. Offensively, the players to be aware of are Tyrone Hayes and Dwayne Williams. Hayes leads the team in most offensive categories including points, while Williams seems to be the only player that consistently puts the ball in the basket from behind the three-point line. Throughout the season, the best way to stop the Vandal offensive attack has been to come out in a zone. During the first meeting between the two, UCSB played a lot of zone and it worked as the Gauchos came away with a 59-47 victory. Further, according to Coach Perry, Idaho dislikes playing against zones because it eliminates the offense's ability to attack as much as it would like to.
The key match-up in tonight's game will be UC Santa Barbara against the less-than-hospitable, Cowan Spectrum. It's not that the University or the fans are inhospitable in any way, in fact, Idaho is gracious to opposing players and staff, rather it's that playing in Idaho is difficult for everyone in the Big West, including Santa Barbara. UCSB is 2-5 in Moscow since Idaho began playing the Gauchos, although the season series is in favor of UCSB 11-5. Thus all Gaucho losses to Idaho have come in Idaho. Therefore, tonight's battle between the Gauchos and the difficulty of Cowan Spectrum will be the key match-up.
What To Look For
Look for UC Santa Barbara to try and ride their two-game winning streak into the biggest road-trip of the season and come away with at least a split. As the season takes the turn towards the second half, every game starts to matter more and more, as seeding in the Big West Tournament now becomes crucial. Idaho and Utah are two of the most difficult places to play in the Big West and Santa Barbara will need to come out hot in order to steal a win in either state. Look for the game in Idaho to be a battle, games in Idaho always are, and then look for UCSB to enter Utah's Dee Glen Smith Spectrum with revenge on its mind.