The UCSB men’s basketball team opens up its regular season this Sunday with a matchup against Pepperdine at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu.
Santa Barbara completed its undefeated exhibition season Tuesday night with a motivational 70-63 victory over the California Southwest All-Stars, who compiled impressive victories over nationally ranked teams on their tour across the United States.
"This was a great warm-up for Pepperdine," Gaucho Head Coach Bob Williams said. "[The All-Stars] have some great talent on that team."
The high-octane Waves, who went 25-9 en route to a conference championship and NCAA Tourney bid last year, should pose a much tougher challenge for UCSB on Sunday afternoon. Pepperdine concluded a perfect exhibition season of its own after cruising by the L.A. Stars, 90-70, and the California West All-Stars, 101-85.
"My coaching staff and I are committed to building a solid program that can compete successfully at a high level of excellence against the nation’s top college basketball schools," Pepperdine Head Coach Jan van Breda Kolff said. "I am excited about the level of returning talent on our roster. This team has a tremendous chance to win a second straight conference championship."
The Waves opened their regular season with a thud Tuesday after an 80-68 loss in the preseason National Invitation Tournament to an Indiana team without former coach Bobby Knight scowling on the sidelines. The Hoosiers, under new Head Coach Mike Davis, avenged a 20-point loss to Pepperdine in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament with the victory.
Pepperdine holds a 32-28 lifetime series advantage over Santa Barbara and beat the Gauchos 68-64 in last season’s game. Yet, UCSB has been on the rise in recent years under Williams, who has led the team to its first ever back-to-back seasons of .500 or above in his first two years against conference opponents. Williams is looking forward to matching up with Pepperdine in a game that may gauge the Gauchos’ success this season.
"This will be a better offensive team than the last two years," Williams said. "We have seven or eight guys who can score in double digits for us. That makes a good basketball team and I think we will be tough to defend."
Santa Barbara features a solid freshmen class with several key veterans returning to the team. The most vital players include the team’s strongest offensive threat, sophomore forward Mark Hull, who made the Big West’s All-Freshmen Team last season. Senior power forward Adama Ndiaye, the team’s leading rebounder and shot blocker, will anchor the defense and bolster the offense. Senior forward Juliano Jordani, who had 13 points and eight rebounds Tuesday, will also be an enforcer down low. Sharp-shooting senior LaRon Bryant and sophomore point guard B.J. Ward wrap up the probable starting lineup. Unlike teams from the past, the Gauchos will showcase a sound bench that will provide much needed depth this season.
"We will be ready for Sunday," Williams said "There are a few things we need to work on, like pressure situations and free throws, but I’m excited about this group. I think that this is only the tip of the iceberg."
Sunday’s game is the first of six UCSB games to be televised in the 2000-01 season. The game in Malibu will be shown at 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Net 2.