Losing four straight games can make any coach tear the hair out of their head, especially if the games are one-point setbacks and blowouts.
Yet some relief had to find its way to UCSB men’s basketball Head Coach Bob Williams after Saturday’s 94-69 thrashing of Cal State Fullerton.
Santa Barbara received contributions from everyone on the team, including three players scoring in double figures off the bench, and 10 of 11 players scoring at least four points against the shorthanded Titans. Freshman forward Casey Cook asserted himself as a viable threat in the low post with a career-high 14 points, including two dunks in a row with just under six minutes to play.
"I was really relaxed out there," Cook said. "The past couple of games I’ve been really tense, but I just wanted to let the game come to me. When that happens, I play better."
Sophomore forward Mark Hull and freshman forward Branduinn Fullove led the Gauchos with 13 points each. Hull and Fullove outscored CSUF’s frontcourt starting tandem of Josh Fischer and Babacar Camara 26 to 12. Hull and Fullove also combined for 10 assists.
Seniors LaRon Bryant and Juliano Jordani scored 11 points each, but more importantly gave an all-around effort that the Gauchos have been desperately searching for. Bryant stroked 3-3 shots from downtown, and Jordani made 4-5 shots and grabbed seven boards, continually killing any Titan rally.
"They’re giving us a spark," Williams said. "The players need to see other guys play hard. Juliano’s knees are hurting him [yet he’s out there playing hard]. LaRon back is a big boost for us. Having two seniors back is really a boost for us."
The most exciting contributions came from freshman center J.J. Todd and junior guard LaDonte King. Todd led UCSB (6-11, 3-4 in the Big West) with three offensive rebounds while scoring four points. King was "The King with the Sting" in the final four minutes of the ballgame, scoring seven points by drilling all three of his field goals, and lighting up the Titans with the final three points of the evening with 9.1 seconds left.
After the Titans’ Kevin Richardson gave his team its only lead of the night with a short jumper for 2-0 lead, Santa Barbara went on 7-0, 13-2, 16-4, and 28-6 runs to clobber the visitors. Fullerton never came closer than 15 points in the second half. UCSB led by as many as 29 points, 85-56, with 4:34 left.
"The problem tonight is that we can’t play without effort," CSUF Head Coach Donny Daniels said. "We had no effort and we didn’t compete. That was very disturbing that they scored on nine consecutive baskets. Layups were the most disturbing; we couldn’t come back after a big win [at Cal Poly 85-77 on Jan. 25]."
Titans junior point guard David Castleton was equally dismayed by his team’s performance Saturday.
"They shot the lights out," said Castleton, who scored 11 points in 31 minutes. "When Santa Barbara starts shooting, it means trouble. It all came down to who wanted it more."
With the most dominating and impressive performance of the season under its belt, Santa Barbara must now keep its composure and continue to improve.
"It’s like coach said," Bryant said. "Our light is finally starting to go on in us."