The UCSB men’s basketball team was outscored by 32 total points in the second half in its last two games. It has lost three games in a row. The team is in fifth place in the Big West with a 7-8 conference record — a far cry from first, where they were predicted to end up in a conference coaches’ poll in the preseason.
“It’s crucial to get some confidence going,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “You don’t want to roll into the tournament with a losing streak, doubting whether or not you finish a game.”
At 10-5 in conference play, the Mustangs need one more win to secure second place in the Big West going into the Big West Tournament on March 10, held at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Unless fourth place Cal State Northridge loses two games and the Gauchos win, UCSB will enter the tournament in fifth place. As it stands, the team will most likely face off against the Mustangs again in the first round of the tournament.
With a 14-2 Big West record, Long Beach has locked down the Big West’s top seed. The winner of the tournament will earn an automatic bid to the first round of the NCAA Tournament, where the Gauchos lost to Ohio State last season.
In their last meeting, UCSB beat Cal Poly by one point in San Luis Obispo. A win at the end of the season against the second-most successful team in the conference could be the boost the Gauchos need.
“I just don’t think we’ve been a very confident basketball team,” Williams said.
Still, UCSB has the Big West’s leading scorer on its side in junior guard Orlando Johnson, who is averaging 20.8 points per game. He was the only player to score in double digits in last weekend’s 71-53 loss to Poly. Junior forward James Nunnally has been the team’s second-leading scorer with 16.7 per game.
From the end of January to mid-February, Cal Poly went on a six-game winning streak, though the team has lost two of its last three. The team’s two leading scorers — Shawn Lewis and David Hanson — score just over 15 points per game apiece. Both scored 20 against the Gauchos earlier this season.
Tipoff tomorrow night is slated for 7:15 p.m., with the first 500 students in attendance receiving “Mustache March Madness” mustaches.