November 29, 2003

Tonight's Game: UC Santa Barbara vs. St. Mary's

Nov. 29, 2003

Santa Barbara, Calif. - Tonight UC Santa Barbara begins the Montana Holiday Classic in a first-round game against St. Mary's. After defeating the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, the Gauchos traveled to a colder climate to take part in Montana's annual tournament. UCSB, 1-0 overall, was originally scheduled to play Montana in the first round, however, the schedule was changed and the Gauchos now face St. Mary's. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (Pacific Time) and the game will be aired on KTLK 1340-AM.

UC Santa Barbara Probable Starters
Leading the Gauchos into the Holiday Classic will be Jacoby Atako at the point with Cecil Brown and Josh Davis on the wings. Atako scored 13 points in last week's victory over Hawaii and limited UH guard Michael Kuebler to just five points. Brown dropped in 13 points as well against Hawaii, and looks to continue scoring while Fullove and Jones are out. Davis had a tough time getting his shots to fall, going 0-for-8 from the floor, but played excellent defense on Hawaii's power forward, transfer Julius Senslay. Manning the blocks for the Gauchos will be the three-man committee of Cameron Goettsche, Casey Cook, and Bryan Whitehead. Any combination could start tonight with either player being at the four or the five. In Honolulu, Goettsche got into foul trouble early and only wound up scoring just three points. He did manage to pull down three rebounds and dish out a couple assists though. Casey Cook played the best game of his career last week, going 6-for-11 from the floor for a career-high 16 points. Cook was a monster on the boards as well, pulling down 12 rebounds. Whitehead scored four points against the Rainbow Warriors and grabbed four boards.

St. Mary's Probable Starters
Starting in the backcourt for the Gaels will be senior Tyler Herr and juniors Jonathan Sanders and E.J. Rowland. Herr, a 6-foot-5 guard from Arizona, is averaging 4.7 points per game and 1.7 rebounds. He leads the team with 13 three-point attempts but has only connected on four. Sanders is averaging six points over the three previous contests for St. Mary's and has pulled down ten rebounds. He is 6-of-10 from the floor and has connected on 6-of-9 free throws. Rowland is the second leading scorer for SMC so far with an average of 13.3 points per game. He is shooting .583 from the floor and is 10-of-12 from the line. On the blocks for the Gaels will be 6-foot-10 sophomore Daniel Kickert and 6-foot-8 senior Frederic Adjiwanou. Kickert leads the team in scoring with 18.3 points per game. The Australian was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Top of the World Classic in Alaska after scoring a career-high 28 points in a win over the host, Alaska Fairbanks. Adjiwanou is scoring five points a game and is making his presence felt under the basket where he paces St. Mary's with eight rebounds per game.

Scouting the Gauchos
New faces are becoming the 'scouted' ones for Santa Barbara. While Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones remain sidelined, players like Casey Cook, Cecil Brown, and Jacoby Atako are stepping up and producing for the Gauchos. In last week's victory over Hawaii, Cook had the best game of his career, dropping in 16 points and grabbing 12 boards. Brown has consistently been at the top of the list in scoring and Atako has been doing more than just directing the team from his point guard position, he has been attacking the basket and scoring with better efficiency than in years past. As a team, UCSB was out-sized against Hawaii, but Santa Barbara showed intensity under the basket and out-rebounded UH 36-to-31. The Gauchos also turned the ball over less and shot better from the free throw line. Typically, in scouting Santa Barbara, one would have to make the guard play the primarily area of concern. Yet while Atako and Brown had good games against Hawaii, the post players are the ones who appear to be the force right now. UCSB will box out and rebound well, even against players like Kickert. Finally, the defense that led the Gauchos to two consecutive post-season appearances is still here, Santa Barbara will apply pressure consistently and will do everything in its power to disrupt its opponents.

Scouting the Gaels
St. Mary's finished the Top of the World Classic with a 2-1 record and a third place finish. The team is starting to see great play from its forwards, most notably Kickert, who paced the team throughout its first few games. The offense for the Gaels has consisted primarily of going inside and letting the forwards create. The team has a .444 shooting percentage from the floor and is sinking 76% of its free throws. However, St. Mary's has only connected on 13-of-47 three-pointers for a .277 percentage. Defensively, SMC is in the process of trying to achieve its team goal of becoming one of the best defensive teams in the country. The focal point throughout the pre-season has been defense and it is starting to pay off. The Gaels are making a point of defending the perimeter hard and not letting teams get good looks at the basket from outside. Against St. Mary's, teams are only shooting 19% from beyond the arc. The percentage doesn't improve much when you move inside where teams have only posted a .333 percentage from the floor. Along with defending the shots, the Gaels are out-rebounding opponents by 2.3 boards per game. If St. Mary's can maintain this defensive and rebounding presence, it can expect to have another successful tournament.

Key Match Up
Obviously Daniel Kickert seems to be the go-to player for St. Mary's. Therefore, he will be the one that is keyed on defensively. The rotating Gaucho forwards, including Cook, Whitehead, and Goettsche, will be counted on to limit Kickert's scoring opportunities and keep him off the boards. However, UCSB plays such good help defense, many players will contribute as he'll see double teams and have pesky guards crashing down on him every time he touches the ball.

What To Look For
Look for a good opening round game in the Montana Holiday Classic. Both teams are coming off wins and they appear to be evenly matched on paper. Look for the Gauchos to push the ball and try to get easy baskets before the Gael big men get down court. With Thanksgiving just two days past, a slow start could also be expected.