Tonight's Game: UC Santa Barbara at Cal Poly

Feb. 20, 2003

Tonight the UCSB men's basketball team takes on Cal Poly to complete a three game road trip. The journey began in Pacific where the Gauchos defeated the Tigers 62-52, and proceeded to Northridge where Santa Barbara defeated the Matadors 67-58. The two wins increased UCSB's overall record to 13-10 and its conference record to 10-3. Cal Poly enters tonight's game with a mark of 11-11 overall and a Big West record of 7-6. Tonight's game will be held in Cal Poly's Mott Gym and will be broadcast on KEYT 1250.

UCSB Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the backcourt for the Gauchos will be Jacoby Atako, Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones. Atako played very well against Northridge on Saturday scoring seven points, pulling down three rebounds, and dishing out a pair of assists. Additionally, on the defensive end of the court Atako gathered two steals to increase his team lead to 26 and he helped the Gauchos hold Pacific and Northridge to a combined 36.3 field goal percentage. Fullove was knocked out of the game against Pacific when Christian Maraker came down on him with his mouth, lodging a tooth in Fullove's forehead. The cut required stitches and gave Fullove a game-ending headache. Fullove bounced back against Northridge though, leading UCSB with 19 points. On the season he is averaging 15.4 points per game and has led the team in scoring five out of the last six games. Jones picked up for Fullove against Pacific going for 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds. On the season he is the Gauchos' third leading scorer with 13.5 points per game. He is the team's second leading rebounder pulling down 4.8 rebounds per game as well. On the blocks for Santa Barbara will be Mark Hull and Casey Cook. Hull, who many thought would have stepped up against the Tigers with Fullove out, went absolutely cold from the floor finishing with five points on 1-of-9 shooting. However, on the season he is still UCSB's second leading scorer at 13.4 points per game. He is the team's leading rebounder as well, grabbing 5.1 rebounds per game. Across from Hull will be Casey Cook. After going through a five game stint in which Cook shot 19% from the floor, he found his rhythm last weekend going 5-for-6. On the season he is averaging 5.5 points per game and is pulling down 3.6 rebounds per contest.

Cal Poly Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the backcourt for the Mustangs will be senior guards Jason Allen and Steve Geary. Allen is the only player for Cal Poly who has started and played in every single game this season. He is averaging 11.8 points per game and is leading the team in assists, dishing out 2.6 per contest. Allen also leads the team in minutes per game staying on the court for an average of 33 per game. Geary, a 5'11" senior from Oklahoma, is averaging 8.8 points per game for the Mustangs and is pulling down 2.2 rebounds as well. He has snatched 22 steals on the season and has been reliable from the free throw line connecting on 80% of his freebies. The starting forwards for the Mustangs will be juniors Shane Shilling and Varnie Dennis along with senior Jered Patterson. Schilling is second on the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game and in rebounding with 5.8 per outing. Last week against Pacific Schilling recorded his first double double, scoring 20 points and ripping down 14 rebounds. Varnie Dennis has been the man for the Mustangs this season. He is leading the team in numerous statistical categories including points, rebounds, and blocks. Dennis is scoring 17.2 points per game and is pulling down 7.3 rebounds. Dennis's 17.2 points per game place him second in the Big West in scoring and his 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game lead the conference. Patterson is scoring 4.6 points per game and is getting 4.2 rebounds as well.

Scouting the Mustangs:
Cal Poly enters tonight's game in third place in the Big West behind UCSB, Utah State, and UC Irvine. What has kept the Mustangs in contention throughout this season has been their ability to score. As a team they are tossing in 69 points per game, as compared to Santa Barbara's 65.5. Indeed Cal Poly has a lower shooting percentage from all areas of the floor but it manages to pull down six more rebounds and block three more shots per game then the Gauchos. Despite the 69 points per game on the season for the Mustangs, 70 seems to be the magic number. When Cal Poly scores at least 70 points they are 7-1, yet when they score less then 70, they are 4-10. As is the case in most of the Big West contests, defense will again be the key to victory for UCSB. The leading scorer for Poly is Varnie Dennis, the 6'8" junior, forward. Dennis has the size and ability to score down low, demonstrating an array of post moves, however, he is also a threat from behind the three-point arc. On the season Dennis has cashed in on 26 three-pointers on 38% shooting from beyond he three-point line. Aside from Dennis, Shilling is really the only other Mustang that is an all around threat. Shilling can also score down low and has the ability to hit from downtown too. Outside, Jason Allen is definitely the man to guard as he has stroked a team-high 45 three-pointers. When not shooting the trey, Allen can be found at the free throw line where he has connected on 85% of his free throws.

Scouting the Gauchos:
Essentially, there is no real focal point to the Santa Barbara offense that must be shut down if an opponent wishes to come away victorious. Case in point, against Pacific, Fullove and Hull finished with a combined five points, yet the Gauchos pulled off a ten-point victory. On numerous occasions throughout this season one or two of the top scorers for UCSB have had terrible games only to have their spirits picked up by the play of the bench. Somebody in a Gaucho uniform will score some points whether it be the big three, Hull, Fullove and Jones, Cook or Whitehead, or somebody off the bench like the super subs Cecil Brown and Josh Davis. Davis and Brown combined for 23 points in the victory over Pacific, without the help of Hull and Fullove. Jones chipped in 15 as well to solidify the win. What must be understood is that if you want to stop Santa Barbara, you are going to have to limit them as a team. The entire shooting percentage must be down, bend the rims, raise the hoops a couple inches, and do something to throw off the entire team. If this doesn't happen, somebody will score and the offense will again click. On the other end of the floor teams must manage the ball well, limiting the opportunities the Gauchos have to get steals and force bad shots. Recently, UCSB has been on a terror defensively, basically due to a relentless, in your face, rotation around the opposing players. The team moves extremely quickly following the ball and clogging up passing lanes. This causes confusion and poor shots, as well as results in steals that lead to easy fast break points. Coach Williams instilled an impressive defensive mentality with the young Gauchos and it is starting to pay dividends.

Key Match-up:
The key to tonight's game for UCSB will be its ability to control Varnie Dennis. As is the case with most of the Big West opponents, there is specifically one player that must be taken out of the game in order to secure a victory. With the Mustangs, this player is most definitely Dennis. Hull will likely start on him but it will be hard to tell as Gauchos from all over the court will attack him as soon as he touches the ball. Cook will probably see some time on him and Whitehead will as well. If all goes well, Dennis will have a hard time keeping up with all the Gauchos that surround him as Santa Barbara will double down every time he touches the ball, looking to disrupt and cause turnovers.

What to look for:
Look for a tight and emotional game. These two rivals always play close games, particularly in San Luis Obispo. The energy in Mott Gym should be at a high level with the television cameras running. UCSB is playing well defensively right now, but Cal Poly has a number of offensive weapons that could play off the emotion of the crowd.