Feb. 21, 2003
Tonight the UCSB men's basketball team takes on the Titans of Detroit Mercy University. The Titans, members of the Horizon League, come to Santa Barbara with an overall record of 13-11 and a league mark of 7-7. Their 7-7 record places them in fifth place in the Horizon League, five games behind University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. UCSB is coming off a frustrating loss to Cal Poly up in San Luis Obispo. The loss moved Santa Barbara's record to 13-11 on the season and 10-4 in conference play, more importantly, it allowed Utah State and UC Irvine to grab a piece of first place as the three are now tied with 10-4 records. The game will be played in UCSB's Thunderdome 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, the team leader in assists and steals, scored 10 points in the loss to Cal Poly. He didn't miss a shot during the game going 4-for-4 from the floor and knocking down both free throw tries. Fullove didn't fare as well going 4-for-12 from the floor and scoring 11 points. On the season Fullove is leading the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game. Jones led the Gauchos against Cal Poly with 18 points which was the most he has scored since back-to-back 20-point games at the very beginning of the season. Jones has scored in double figures in three straight games and still ranks second on the team in rebounding. At the forward positions for Santa Barbara will be Mark Hull and Casey Cook. Hull has had his share of trouble finding the bottom of the net lately. On Thursday night he went 1-for-9 and scored just eight points. In the last seven games he is shooting just 26% and his streak of 15 games with a three-point basket has come to an end. However, Hull is still the second leading scorer for UCSB and he will find his stroke eventually. Cook scored four points against Cal Poly and pulled down two rebounds. On the season he is averaging 5.3 points per game as well as 1.9 rebounds. In the last 11 games, Cook has knocked down 80% of his free throws.
Detroit Probable Starting Lineup:
The Titans will start two Detroit natives at the guard positions in Rulon Harris and Willie Green. Harris, a 6'1" junior, has started every game this season and is averaging four points per game for coach Perry Watson. Harris is second on the team in assists with 49 on the year and is second in steals as well with 22. Green, a 6'4" senior, is leading the team in just about every statistical category including points per game, free throws, assists, blocks, and steals. He is averaging an impressive 22.3 points per contest and has scored more then 200 more points than any other Titan. At the forward position for Detroit will be Terrell Riggs and Elijah Warren. Riggs, a 6'7" senior, is second on the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game. He has connected on 51% of his shots from the floor and leads the team with 6.2 rebounds per game. Warren, a 6'5" junior, is third on the team in scoring and leads the Titans in three-pointers made. On the season he is 36-of-98 from behind the three-point arc, a 36% success rate. The center for the Titans will be 6'7" junior Willie Wallace. Wallace is averaging 6.5 points per game and is pulling down 3.4 rebounds. He is the only everyday player for Detroit that has not taken a shot from behind the three-point line.
Scouting the Titans:
In terms of statistics, the Gauchos and the Titans are fairly evenly matched. Detroit scores about 69 points per game compared to 65 for Santa Barbara. Conversely, UCSB allows an average of 61 points per game while the Titans give up around 65. Detroit shoots a little better from the field while the Gauchos have a better three-point shooting percentage. Both teams turn the ball over about 12 times per game but Detroit has a rebounding margin of +2.4 while Santa Barbara is down around -1. Based on these statistics the teams appear to be evenly matched. The one area in which there appears to be the greatest difference is in the range of players that do significant scoring. While Santa Barbara counts on numerous players to put points on the board, the Titans rely on one. Willie Green handles the load for the Titans, scoring ten more points per game then any other player. He shoots the three, takes the ball to the hole and gets himself to the free throw line. During the last eight games, Green has scored more then 23 points every time and has had games of 43, 41, and 31. In order to shut down the offense for the Titans, the Gauchos must shut down Willie Green. If UCSB keeps Green's numbers to a minimum, and subsequently, keeps the Titan's total below 70, the Gauchos have a good chance at coming away with a victory. In games in which Detroit scores less then 70 points, they are 3-8. Also, Santa Barbara needs to try and enter halftime with a lead, as the Titans are 2-9 when trailing at the half. Titan turnovers spell victory for Santa Barbara as well. In games in which Detroit has turned the ball over ten or more times, Detroit is 7-11, yet when the Titans can limit their turnovers to less then 10, they are 6-0. Santa Barbara will have to make sure the defense is clicking tonight if they hope to come away victorious.
Scouting the Gauchos:
There seems to be a trend forming here. Since the beginning of Big West play, the Gauchos have increased the defensive pressure and begun to win games. However, every couple games the Gauchos seem to go through a lapse and consequently, lose a game that should be won. What is important is that after losing, Coach Williams does something to get UCSB fired up to play again and the Gauchos come back smoking. After losing to Utah State at the beginning of Big West play, Santa Barbara proceeded to win four straight games. Then, the feat was repeated after UCSB lost to Long Beach. Four games later, the Gauchos lost to Cal Poly and now go to battle with Detroit. If history is any predictor of what will happen, UCSB will win its next four games which will bring them to the last game of the season versus Riverside. Regardless, in order to get these next couple wins, Mark Hull needs to find his niche on the offensive end of the floor. The team can only go so long without their senior leader producing. However, Hull has traditionally had a couple of games like this during every season here at Santa Barbara where he cools off and can't seem to get his shot to fall. The good news is, every time he goes through a shooting slump, he manages to pull himself out right as the season ends and he becomes the hottest player in the conference. Just ask University of Arizona about how hot Hull can get. Aside from the senior leader, Fullove and Jones need to contribute more on offense as well. Despite the lack of offense, it is the defense that has enabled Santa Barbara to remain atop the conference for so long. Be prepared to see this intense defense on display first hand against an un-expecting Detroit team. There is little doubt Coach Williams has reminded the Gauchos about the importance of coming back with a victory after such a discouraging loss towards the end of conference play.
Clearly the man that Santa Barbara must focus on is Willie Green. Though he is not very tall, Green has tremendous scoring ability as demonstrated by his 22.3 points per game. He can do it all, shoot from outside, drive, and connect from the free throw line, plus he leads the team in assists. The most multi dimensional player for the Titans will definitely be the focal point of the Santa Barbara defense. Likely Atako will start on him as they match size and are relatively close in quickness. It is possible that Fullove and Jones will see time on him as well, along with assistance from freshmen Cecil Brown and Josh Davis off the bench. Regardless of who draws the assignment, Green is the player that UCSB will focus on and how well he is controlled will likely determine who wins the game.
What to look for:
Look for the Gauchos to come out hungry after losing to coastal rival Cal Poly. The trend this year has been for the Gauchos to drop games that they shouldn't and to bounce back with renewed intensity. Tonight should be no different as Santa Barbara looks to make a final run towards the Big West tournament. Additionally, the fact that ESPN will be in the Thunderdome should raise the excitement in the stands and on the floor. Look for the players to feed off the energy that ESPN brings to town and come back with a victory over Detroit.