Now nearing the halfway mark of regular season conference play, the UCSB men’s basketball team faces two more Big West opponents in UC Irvine and the University of Hawaii.
UCSB kicks of this Big West doubleheader on Thursday, by first hosting the UC Irvine Anteaters at the Thunderdome. Then, on Saturday, the Gauchos will fly out to the University of Hawaii to take on the Rainbow Warriors.
After their 6-game winning streak was snapped last week at Fullerton, the Gauchos will enter this week wanting to return to their winning ways. Regardless, the month of January has gone very well, as the men’s basketball team has won five of the six games they’ve played.
UCSB currently stand at a 15-4 overall record on the season; with those four losses all occurring in road games. The team will also be coming off their most recent road win against Big West opponent Long Beach State, which resulted in a final score of 82-71. That being said, the Gauchos will look to extend their home court dominance over UC Irvine. With a win against the Anteaters, UCSB will maintain its perfect record and improve to 10-0 when at home.
As for UC Irvine, the Anteaters find themselves in fine form after winning three consecutive conference matches. They’ll be coming off a most recent home win versus UC Riverside, in which they defeated their visitors 82-64.
On the season, UC Irvine boast a 17-5 overall record and a 5-1 conference record; enough to place them at the top of Big West league standings. The Anteaters have also performed better on the road, with an away record of 8-2, as compared to their 7-2 home record. UC Irvine is a historically familiar opponent, with Thursday being the 92nd time that UCSB has faced them; the Gauchos currently lead the all-time series record with a 52-39 performance.
In addition, the University of Hawaii will also have plenty of reason to upset the Gauchos, considering a win for them will have them level in terms of conference record and standing. After losing back to back games against UC Riverside and UC Irvine, the Rainbow Warriors will be coming off a most recent home win against conference opponent UC Davis; which resulted in an 80-60 victory for the hosts.
The Rainbow Warriors currently stand at an overall record of 12-7 on the season, and have played their best basketball in Hawai’i considering their 10-3 home record. Historically, UCSB vs. Hawaii has always been an exciting matchup, with the latter side leading the all-time series record by a slight margin of 11-10.
Players to watch for the Gauchos include graduate guard Ar’mond Davis and junior guard Max Heidegger. Davis, who leads UCSB in total scoring and steals, will be coming off a spectacular performance during last week’s win against Long Beach State; where finished with a double-double stat line, 24 points and 11 rebounds. Heidegger is also slowly returning to his prolific form after a solid showing off the bench in the same game; in which he finished with a stat line of 10 points, 6 assists, and 2 steals. Both players will continue to see quality minutes as key contributors in this week’s doubleheader.
For the Anteaters, junior guard Max Hazzard leads the offensive for UC Irvine. Hazzard leads his side in total points, with 260, and total assists, with 36, on the season. Hazzard also put up double digits in scoring, with 11 points, in UC Irvine’s most recent home win against UC Riverside.
As for the Rainbow Warriors, sophomore guard Drew Buggs plays the role of prolific playmaker for his side. He leads Hawaii in total assists with 108, which accounts for more than a third of his team’s combined total assists, and is a top-5 scorer with 169 points to his name. Buggs seemingly makes the players around him even better; it’s within the Gauchos’ best interests to find a way to halt his excellent distributional skills.
A Big West standings update is in order considering UCSB no longer finds themselves at the top of the table. UC Irvine leads the pack with a 5-1 conference record, and 17-5 overall, whilst the Gauchos drop down to second place with a 4-1 conference record, and 15-4 overall. Meanwhile, the University of Hawaii follow closely in fourth place with a 3-2 conference record, and 12-7 overall.
All the action starts at home in the Thunderdome this Thursday, January 31st, with the Gauchos hosting the Anteaters at 8 p.m. The team will then travel to Hawaii on Saturday, February 2nd, for a late tipoff time at 10 p.m.