The UCSB men’s basketball team is on a roll following solid wins against Loyola Marymount and Boise State in the Big West conference opener. Now, the Gauchos are looking for a streak that they have been unable to accomplish all year: the attempt to win three games in a row.
Santa Barbara (4-7, 1-0 in the Big West) is primed for conference play, and its second Big West opponent, Cal State Fullerton, will be forced to host the Gauchos. The only factor working in the Titans favor is that UCSB has not won a road game all season. But teams that play well tend to continue playing strong no matter where the game is played.
The Gauchos lead the all-time series against the Titans, holding a 25-23 advantage. UCSB has won four straight games, and last lost to CSUF in the final game of the 1997-98 season, 76-70. Santa Barbara crushed the Titans in both meetings last year by scores of 81-53 and 82-67.
Against Loyola Marymount, the Gauchos scorched the Lions with .525 percent shooting, while winning by their largest margin of the season, 85-69. Freshman guard Branduinn Fullove had his best game since a 13-point, six-rebound, six-assist effort in a triple overtime win over San Diego State back on Dec. 6. Fullove scored 13 points, grabbed five rebounds and passed for five assists. Redshirt freshman guard Nick Jones pumped in a career-high 19 points against LMU while Mike Vukovich blasted off for 16 points and six boards. Senior sharpshooter LaRon Bryant had 10 points in the contest.
In the team’s most recent victory, the Gauchos blazed by Boise State 81-75 as four players scored in double figures, led by Vukovich’s 20 points and nine boards. Fullove, who is constantly improving, drilled in 16 points and dished out seven assists. Sophomore forward Mark Hull put in 13 points and six boards and Jones contributed 15 points.
One of the most intriguing statistics for the Gauchos is that they are 2-0 when Jones, Fullove, Hull, Vukovich and freshman point guard Jacoby Atako start. Look for the Gauchos to unleash all of their weapons against all their conference rivals throughout the rest of the season, and to make a run for the NCAA tournament. Santa Barbara has posted a 23-10 record in Head Coach Bob Williams’ brief career at the helm of UCSB’s program, and his record should continue to improve this year.