March 13, 2003

Today's Game: UC Santa Barbara vs. Pacific

March 13, 2003

Today the UCSB men's basketball team begins a new season as the Big West Conference Tournament gets under way. With the goal of being crowned Big West champs and earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Gauchos take on University of Pacific. The Tigers enter tonight's game as the No.8 seed in the tournament, the last team to make it in, while Santa Barbara leads the pack as the No. 1 seed. Records and stats no longer matter, it's survival of the fittest and only the best team will survive to earn the bid to the NCAA Tournament. The game will be played at the Anaheim Convention Center and will be broadcast on KEYT 1250.

UCSB Probable Starting Lineup:
The UC Santa Barbara starting lineup for today's game will be littered with winners of Big West accolades. Starting at the point guard position will be Big West Defensive Player of the Year Jacoby Atako. Atako was the leading man in all UCSB's most impressive defensive showings, continuously shutting down the best guards in the conference. He powered the defense that held opponents to 56.1 points per game during conference play. Alongside Atako will be Big West Player of the Year Branduinn Fullove and Co-Big West Hustle Player of the Year Nick Jones. Fullove earned the top honors by leading the Gauchos in scoring at 15.3 points per game. He shot 48% from the floor and connected on 42% of his three-point baskets. Fullove was also a guarantee from the free throw line where he cashed in on 100 of his 121 free throw attempts. Jones earned his award by consistently providing a spark with his intensity on defense and his streaky yet potent offensive showings. He is currently third on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game and he leads the starters in field goal and three-point shooting percentage by connecting on 49.8% of his field goals and 43% of his treys. On the blocks for the Gauchos will be Big West First Team member Mark Hull and sophomore Casey Cook. Hull made the first team for his second time in two years and with the honor he becomes the first Gaucho in 29 years to earn first-team all-league honors twice. Further, this is the third time Hull made an all-league team as he was a member of the second-team during his sophomore season. He is averaging a steady 13 points on the season and leads the team in rebounding with 4.9 boards per game. Cook finished the regular season with a scoring average of 5.3 points per game. He is pulling down 3.6 rebounds per game and is shooting a 45% from the floor.

Pacific Probable Starting Lineup:
Starting in the backcourt for the Tigers will likely be Demetrius Jackson and Miah Davis. Jackson has started 23 of the 27 games this season for and he leads the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game. He is shooting 40% from the floor on 123-of-304 shots. Jackson has drilled 47 three pointers as well and is dangerous from the free throw line, connecting on 82% of his free throws. Davis leads the team in minutes averaging 33.7 per game and he is scoring just about 10 points per a contest. He too is outstanding from the free throw line having connected on 52 of 58 free throws. Davis is second on the team in assists with 65 on the season and he has picked up a second best 24 steals as well. The forwards for the Tigers will likely be Christian Maraker and Tom Cockle. Maraker is second on the team in scoring at 11.7 points per game and he is second on the team with a .460 field goal percentage. Maraker leads the team in rebounding by pulling down 6.2 boards per game. Cockle ranks fifth on the team in scoring at 6.1 points per game. He has connected on 21 of 61 three-pointers and is pulling down about three rebounds per game. At the center position for Pacific will be Tim Johnson. Johnson is averaging 5.6 points per game and leads the team with 28 blocks.

Scouting the Tigers:
Pacific has two legitimate scoring threats in Demetrius Jackson and Christian Maraker. Jackson will penetrate, get to the line, and shoot from outside, while Maraker will take the ball down low and shoot the occasional three when he is open. Aside from those two, it can really be anybody on any given night that ends up contributing for the Tigers. On occasion it is Miah Davis or Matt Kemper, and sometimes it is Tom Cockle lighting it up from downtown. Jacko Korajkic also has the ability to get hot and do some significant scoring for Pacific. The Gauchos will have to defend Jackson, Davis and Cockle outside. All three have demonstrated the ability to shoot the rock from downtown. Inside, Maraker is the main option so Hull and Cook will have to try and keep him off the boards and out of the lane. At the same time as you never really know which Tigers will show up to score, you never really know which Pacific team will come to play as a whole. During a period between December and January, the Tigers won seven straight games, however, during their last seven games, Pacific has dropped four. They definitely appear streaky having posted winning streaks of seven and three while also recording two losing streaks of three. Either they're hot or they're not and that's all there really is to it. Regardless, the defense of the Gauchos will have to be on its game if they want get past the first game of the tournament with a victory.

Scouting the Gauchos:
Coming into today's game, an opponent might possibly be disturbed by the fact that Santa Barbara has the Big West Player of the Year, the Big West Defensive Player of the Year, one of the Big West's Hustle Players of the Year, and an All-Big West First-Team member starting for them. Not to mention the Big West's Coach of the Year in Bob Williams. On paper, it looks like nothing other then a perfect combination of players and coaches. As has been the trend all season, the defense will set the tone today, and Jacoby Atako will be at the forefront. The Gauchos will bounce around between defenses trying to confuse the Tigers and throw them different looks considering the teams have already seen each other twice this season. Expect to see pressure zones and presses as well as the occasional intense man-to-man defense. Offensively, UCSB will do its best to get the ball into the hands of the big three, Branduinn Fullove, Mark Hull, and Nick Jones. Each of these scorers is averaging about 12 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. They contribute 62% of the team's total offense and at least one of the three has lead the team in scoring in 28 of 29 games. Count on seeing some production from the bench as well with backup point guard Chrismen Oliver and freshman phenoms Cecil Brown and Josh Davis. Brown and Davis both narrowly missed selections to the Big West All-Freshman team after accounting for 11 points per game between the two. Additionally, both play outstanding defense and can be counted on to lift the team offensively and defensively once they enter the game.

Key Match-up:
The key match-up for today's game will come in the backcourt as Jacoby Atako has the challenge of shutting down Pacific's leading scorer, Demetrius Jackson. Jackson gets the job done on the offensive end for the Tigers where he averages 14.1 points per game and connects on 40% of his three-point shots. He also has a knack for getting into the lane and drawing fouls. At the foul line he is superb, netting 82% of his freebies. It will be up to Atako to keep Jackson in check today. If he contains Pacific's star guard throughout the contest, Pacific will have to rely on scoring from somewhere else, and this will put the Gauchos in a very good position to win game No.1 of the Big West Tournament.

What to look for:
Look for the beginning of a new run for the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The overall record and the Big West record are now irrelevant; the only thing that matters is to keep on playing. The best team will get to play the most games and Santa Barbara is poised to make a run. The awards have been handed out and congratulations have been made. Now it is time to get back to work, time to dust off the tuxedo, time to get back to the Big Dance.