Men's Basketball Returns Home For Three Games, Westmont Is First Up On Saturday

Men's Basketball Returns Home For Three Games, Westmont Is First Up On Saturday

Dec. 2, 2000

The Schedule
Game No. 5
Saturday, December 2, 2000 at 7:05 p.m.

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Westmont College Warriors
at UCSB's Thunderdome

Game No. 6
Wednesday, December 6, 2000 at 7:05 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. San Diego State Aztecs
at UCSB's Thunderdome

Game No. 7
Saturday, December 9, 2000 at 7:05 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara vs. USC Trojans
at UCSB's Thunderdome

Jones Healed, Fullove Healing, Ndiaye Remains Out
The Gaucho injury list is, mercifully, shrinking. Freshman guard Nick Jones, expected to miss some time with a sprained ankle, played at UCLA afterall. Freshman guard Branduinn Fullove, who sprained his ankle in the season-opener at Pepperdine, is healing and could return against Westmont or San Diego State. Adama Ndiaye, who fractured his left ring finger on November 15 and had a pin placed in the injured digit the next day, remains sidelined. When the injury occurred he was expected to be out four to six weeks and that was two weeks ago, so he could be ready to return at the beginning of January.

The Gaucho Record
The Gauchos are 0-4 on the season after dropping an exciting 83-77 decision on the road at UCLA on Wednesday. UCSB, playing without Ndiaye and Fullove, led by three points at halftime and led for much of the second half, before the Bruins came back to post the six point victory. UCSB is 0-3 on the road (losing at BYU and Pepperdine in addition to UCLA) and 0-1 at the Thunderdome (losing in overtime to USF).

What About Bob?
Bob Williams is in his third season as head coach at UCSB. Last year he guided the Gauchos to a 14-14 overall record and a solid 10-6 mark in Big West play. He is the first coach in UCSB history to open his career with back-to-back seasons of .500 or better. In addition, he has led the Gauchos to a two-year record of 22-10 in league play, a winning percentage of .687, the best two-year league mark in school history. In his first season, Williams led UCSB to the Big West's Western Division championship, a 15-13 record overall and a 12-4 record in league. He was named Big West Coach of the Year in 1999. Williams has posted a 29-31 overall record. In his career, which includes stops at UC Davis and Menlo College, he now has a 218-131 record.

Probable Starters - Notes
G - B.J. Ward - Has had at least five assists in three of four games.
G - LaRon Bryant - Eight of his 11 field goals on the year are three-pointers.
F - Mark Hull - Scored career-high 23, hitting five three-pointers at UCLA.
F - Juliano Jordani - Scored ten points in first three games and ten at UCLA.
F - Mike Vukovich - Has fouled out of all four Gaucho games this season.

Possible Reserves - Notes
G - Jacoby Atako - Has 20 assists and only six turnovers in four games.
G - Nick Jones - Despite sore ankle, he scored career-high ten at UCLA.
F - Casey Cook - Has averaged 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in last three.
F - J.J. Todd - Has played 22 minutes in last two after not playing in first two.
G - LaDonte King - Has yet to play in first four games.
F - Adama Ndiaye - Out at least four more weeks with fractured finger.
G - Branduinn Fullove - Could return vs. Westmont or San Diego State.

The Opponents
UCSB holds a lifetime advantage of 38-5 over Westmont College. The Gauchos won last year's meeting by a score of 73-57. The Warriors won two seasons ago when guard Corey Blick hit three free throws with less than half a second remaining to give his team a one-point win. Santa Barbara and San Diego State have played 73 times with the Aztecs holding a 39-34 advantage. SDSU defeated the Gauchos in San Diego last year by a score of 60-57. USC leads the series with UCSB by a 9-0 count. The Trojans beat the Gauchos in Los Angeles last season, 94-73.

The Young And The Restless
Through four games, UCSB is using its youngsters at an alarming rate. When I say youngsters, I mean freshmen and sophomores and when I say alarming, there is no real reason to get concerned. In fact, there is nothing alarming about it, but it is interesting. Including Branduinn Fullove, who played 25 minutes in the opener at Pepperdine before spraining his ankle, freshmen have recorded 284 of the team's 825 total minutes, 34.4%. Sophomores have played 241 minutes, 29.2%. Combined, the UCSB underclassmen, not to be confused with the underclass, has played 525 minutes, 63.6% of this season's available minutes. Last year, Mark Hull became the first freshman to lead the Gauchos in minutes played and this season he is once more leading the way. Hull has logged 135 minutes in four games, an average of 33.8 per contest. Statistically, sophomores and freshmen have combined for 69.3% of UCSB's points (178 of 257).

The Guns Are Loaded Afterall
After three games, UCSB was having some serious problems with its field goal shooting. The Gauchos had made just 36.2% of their shots. They had a peak of 43.1% in an overtime loss to USF and a low of 29.4% at BYU. In their first six halves of basketball, they made 50.0% or better just one time, the first half against USF when they made exactly half of their shots. In Wednesday's effort at UCLA, things changed somewhat. The first half was UCSB's best offensive half of the season as they made 15-of-27 shots (55.6%) and, despite going 14-of-30 (43.3%) in the second half, they finished with a season-best 49.1% from the floor. The performance against the Bruins was good enough to lift the Gauchos' season field goal percentage to near 40.0% at 39.5%. In addition, UCSB now has a starter, leading scorer Mark Hull, who is shooting better than 50.0% from the field. Hull, who made 9-of-12 shots on Wednesday, is now making 51.1% of his attempts.

Three-Point Explosion
In three games prior to the UCLA contest, Santa Barbara had made only 13-of-44 shots from three-point range, a dismal 29.5%. At Westwood, however, the Gauchos exploded, nearly doubling their three-point production for the season. For the game, UCSB made 12-of-22 points from beyond the three-point arc 54.5%. For the year, the Gauchos have now improved to 37.9%. The 12 three-point baskets equaled the teams highest output of the 1999-2000 season.

A Hull Of A Start
Mark Hull did not get off to a great start in 2000-01. In a practice early-on, his left eye was poked, forcing him to the sidelines for a few days. In the regular season opener at Pepperdine he hit the first basket of the game but finished with just nine points in 35 minutes. In the next game, at home against USF, Hull scored just four points in the first half, but something started to click in the second half and overtime as he finished with a team-high 18 points. The momentum carried over to the Gaucho road game at BYU when Hull scored a career-high 21 points. On Tuesday, for the second game in a row, he set a new career-high when he made 9-of-12 shots, including 5-of-6 from three-point range, to finish with 23 points. Hull, who is the team's top returning scorer from a year ago, is averaging 17.8 points per game this season. In the last three games, he is averaging 20.7 points per game and shooting 54.1%.

Point, Counterpoint
The point guard combination of sophomore B.J. Ward and freshman Jacoby Atako has proven to be a pretty positive thing for the Gauchos. In Wednesday's game at UCLA, the duo combined for 12 assists and only two turnovers. Both Ward and Atako had six assists apiece and Atako actually had no turnovers. In four games the Ward-Atako tandem has now produced 39 assists and only 19 turnovers, a 2.1-to-1.0 assist to turnover ratio. While he has had some trouble cranking it up offensively, Atako has been especially solid at taking care of the ball. The Santa Monica High School product leads UCSB in assists with 20 (5.0 per game) and he has committed only six turnovers, an outstanding assist to turnover ratio of 3.3-to-1. He has either led or tied for the Gaucho lead in assists in each of the last three games. Atako's eight assist performance against USF ranks as the highest total for any UCSB player this season. It is pretty early to start singing this song, but if he could continue at a rate at or near his current 5.0 per game, Atako could break UCSB's record for assists in a season by a freshman. The current record of 124 was set in 1980-81 by Aaron McCarthy.

Going Afoul Of The Refs
Junior forward Mike Vukovich inherited a starting role when Adama Ndiaye broke his left ring finger a few days before the season-opener at Pepperdine. But while Vukovich has started every game, he has yet to finish even one, fouling out of all four games that the Gauchos have played. The speed with which he has been dismissed has varied from breakneck (16 minutes at Pepperdine) to fairly slow (a career-high 27 minutes at BYU and 25 vs. USF), but either way, he has been on the bench before the final buzzer in all four contests. Vukovich is averaging 21.7 minutes per game and since a slow start in the opener (0 points and 2 rebounds), he has improved. In the last three games, Vukovich has averaged 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. In addition, he leads the team with six blocked shots. In fact, he is the sole player to produce a blocked shot this season.

Jordani Finds An Old Friend
Senior forward Juliano Jordani discovered an old buddy at UCLA on Wednesday. Was it someone from his native Brazil? Hardly. It was the three-point shot. Arguably one of the team's best three-point shooters, Jordani had gone three-pointerless (sorry) in the first three games, missing all five of his attempts, but against the Bruins, he made 2-of-3 and he finished with a season-high ten points. The ten points was exactly double Jordani's total in the first three games combined.

Stealing The Show
In two seasons under Bob Williams, UCSB basketball has earned a reputation as an outstanding defensive team. One of the ways that has played out is the fact that they have produced a bundle of steals. In fact, in Williams' first season, the Gauchos set a school record for steals with 236, an average of 8.4 per game. Last season, Santa Barbara had another solid season of thievery, producing 211, an average of 7.5 per game. By the looks of things in the early going, things are not going to change too much this year. In four games, the Gauchos have come up with 33 steals, an average of 8.2 per game. Over a 28 game season, that would total out to about 230, a figure that would rank second all-time. B.J. Ward is leading the rip-off parade with eight, but six different Gauchos have at least one steal.

Road Block
Mike Vukovich has blocked six shots on the season, exactly 100.0% of the UCSB total on the year. Gaucho opponents have swatted 25 shots (6.2 per game), including 22 in the last three games (7.3 per game). In fact, one opponent, Hondre Brewer of USF, swatted more in one game than the Gauchos have recorded in four games. Brewer clubbed eight in the OT contest.

On The Docket
Following this three game homestand, UCSB will take some time off for final exams. After playing USC on December 9, they will be off until they travel to Moraga on December 22 to take on St. Mary's in a 7:30 p.m. game.