The men’s basketball team is back on the road this week, as the Gauchos prepare for their last Big West doubleheader and pair of regular season matches. First, they’ll travel south to Northridge, where UCSB will face off against CSUN. Next, another installment of the Blue-Green rivalry is in store as the team travels north to Cal Poly this weekend.
Last week was full of emotion as Gaucho seniors Ar’mond Davis, Ami Lakoju, Jarriesse Blackmon and Maxwell Kupchak were all honored at the Thunderdome’s Senior Night, last Thursday.
UCSB was looking to do the double over Long Beach State, whom they had bested on the road about a month prior. Unfortunately, the seniors weren’t able to be sent off on a win as the Gauchos fell just short by a score of 69-64. Still, fans and players alike applauded the seniors’ contributions throughout their time here at Santa Barbara.
As it stands, the Gauchos hold an overall record of 19-9 on the season, equaling a win percentage of .679. With men’s basketball for the month of February now in the books, UCSB finished with an evenly split performance of 4-4 through the eight Big West Conference matchups they faced.
With the postseason’s Big West Tournament just on the horizon, seeding could still be shaken up as the standings still remain unsecure. Following last week’s play, UC Irvine have now locked in their place as Big West Conference regular season champions.
However, the Gauchos still have a shot at second place in the league if results go in their favor. Cal State Fullerton, whom the Gauchos beat at their home but lost to at the Thunderdome earlier in the season, currently holds second overall with a conference record of 10-5. Meanwhile, the Gauchos remain in third with an 8-6 conference record of their own, although a top-three finish isn’t guaranteed for Santa Barbara as Hawaii, CSUN, UC Davis and Long Beach State all trail closely behind by only a single win difference.
Thursday’s opponents in CSUN are in fine form, as the Matadors are in the midst of a win streak. After losing away at Long Beach State by just a bucket a couple of weeks ago, CSUN has since gone back-to- back-to-back with a trio of wins against UC Davis, UC Riverside and Hawaii.
The Matadors still hold an overall record of 13-17 on the season, a .433 win percentage, but they’ll still be hungry to move up the conference ladder come game time.
Historically speaking, the Gauchos lead the two teams’ all-time series at a record of 38-19, with the last meeting resulting in a 70-64 home victory for UCSB early last month.
As for Blue-Green rival Cal Poly, the Mustangs have been looking the worse for wear as of late. With a 6-21 overall record on the season, Cal Poly also stands dead last in Big West standings with a conference record of 2-12. Not to mention, they’ve averaged 1.5 wins in every month of play this season. The Mustangs will be coming off a most recent 94-85 road loss to Long Beach State, as UCSB will want to complete the clean sweep over their rivals this weekend.
This will be the 115th time the Gauchos have faced their familiar foes, as UCSB leads the all-time series at a record of 79-35. Last time out also resulted in a Gaucho win as UCSB opened this season’s conference campaign with a 65-56 home win over Cal Poly.
Freshman forward Amadou Sow is this week’s player to watch for the Gauchos. Sow will be coming off a most recent monster performance against Long Beach State, where his stat line ended at 13 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and a pair of assists. With a great combination of height and strength, Sow’s added agility also makes him an excellent rim protector that enemy teams must script against.
Two great forces will act opposite of each other as the Matadors also boast a big man prospect of their own in freshman forward Lamine Diane. Leading in total scoring for his side, Diane is also a block machine with 63 on the season. In addition, his 313 total rebounds make up almost a third of his team’s total rebounds; it’ll be wise for the Gauchos to not allow Diane his normal defensive production following tipoff.
Once more, senior point guard Donovan Fields remains one of the few bright spots on Cal Poly’s season. Fields’s total of 451 points and 109 assists leads the Mustangs for the season. As the major driving force of Cal Poly’s offensive production, shutting Fields down will be key for another Gaucho win in the Blue-Green rivalry.
All the action starts this Thursday, March 7, as UCSB heads south to CSUN for a 7 p.m. tipoff time. Then the Gauchos will head north to Cal Poly this Saturday, March 9, which is also set to begin at 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on p. 9 of the March 7, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.