The UCSB men’s basketball team has revenge on its mind tonight.
Santa Barbara will try to avenge its 76-75 loss to Long Beach State on Jan. 18 by going after the 49ers at their own dome, the Pyramid, at 7 p.m., in a game televised by Fox Sports Net 2. The game is expected to be just as physical and intense as the previous battle between these two teams.
“I think it’s a matter of where you go and just play [on the road],” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “Hopefully, we can go out and play our best basketball and have a chance to win on the road.”
The plight of the road for the young Gaucho squad has hampered the team’s record, yet not its spirits. UCSB’s only road victory came at Cal State Fullerton, 74-71, back on Jan. 11. Santa Barbara, however, blew a 10-point lead with minutes remaining to relinquish all the momentum, and bring the Titans back into the game, before finishing off the opponents.
The Gauchos have also been working on elements of their game that will be crucial in deciding the outcome of the contest. Though several methods of its attack worked, UCSB still struggled in certain areas.
“We’re going to go out there and play the way we’re capable of playing defensively,” junior forward Mike Vukovich said. “We’ve been working on getting back on transition and stopping the ball. We need to play our own game and worry about ourselves. We need to come out and play hard to make them match our intensity.”
The speed of the Gauchos will be important to tire out workhorse guard Ron Johnson, and the rest of the 49er defense. Johnson and guard Michael Darrett harassed point guards B.J. Ward and Jacoby Atako all night. Moving the ball around is key for UCSB to wear down the larger Beach squad.
“[Johnson] tries to dictate the offense how to play,” Ward said. “We have to drive the ball and try and tire them out. We have to take care of the ball. He’s one of the strongest point guards that we’ll face this year.”
Williams emphasized the fact that the team needs stronger games from Ward and Atako, and that his players cannot get fazed by the crowd at the Pyramid or by the opportunistic Johnson.
“It is challenging to be a point guard,” Williams said. “They need to play better, and we will need them to beat Long Beach at Long Beach.”
The strongest element of UCSB’s last performance against the 49ers is that its strong-side help defense on center Travis Reed was tremendous in terms of silencing the Big West’s strongest post player. Reed scored only two points in the last meeting.
“As a team effort, we shut [Reed] down,” senior forward Juliano Jordani said. “Especially the double team coming from the same side. They’ll try to adjust to that and they’re ready for us; we’re coming with the same type of game preparation. I think we’ll still be fine.”
As great a positive as shutting down Reed, the team was dismayed by the strongest game of the year from Ramel “Rock” Lloyd. Lloyd exploded for 27 points, 17 in the first half, having his way inside and outside all night.
“That big crowd [in the Jan. 18 game] stimulated Rock,” Williams said. “He was highly pumped up.”
After the 49ers escaped with a victory at the Thunderdome, the players are eagerly awaiting tip-off at Long Beach to gain some measure of revenge against their opponents.
“They were talking a lot of trash in that game because I got hurt that day [with an ankle sprain], and the guys kept getting into my face,” said freshman guard Nick Jones, who scored 15 points in the last meeting. “We’re going to take them out of their game. We have to come out mentally prepared to beat them.”