The UCSB men’s basketball team may not be perfect, but it could always look for guidance from A Perfect Circle on how to perfect its shooting.
A Perfect Circle played in the Thunderdome on Friday night, hours before the Gauchos took over their own stage against Cal Poly.
Santa Barbara took a step closer to perfection, drubbing the Mustangs 95-88 for their fifth straight victory. UCSB made an astounding 74 percent of their shots in the first half and finished the evening engulfing the nets with flames for a 67.4 shooting percentage in the game.
“We’re shooting the ball really well,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I’m really pleased with the rhythm of our shooting.”
Cal Poly (8-13, 2-8 in the Big West) found its shot was more frigid than an iceberg, clanking the ball at a timid 29 percent. The Mustangs, who fell behind by as many as 22 points yet came within two points during the second half, could never get over the hump of their horrendous shooting.
“[Our shooting] really killed us,” said Cal Poly freshman guard Jamaal Scott, who led his team with 21 points. “We shot 29 percent. That’s the game right there. If we make some shots, it’s a different game.”
Sophomore forward Mark Hull drilled a career-high 31 points on 9-14 shooting from the field and a perfect 11-11 from the charity stripe for the Gauchos (10-11, 7-4). Hull found his stroke late in the first half after freshman forward Branduinn Fullove and junior power forward Mike Vukovich provided the bulk of the offense early.
“I found myself a little bit more open [later in the half],” Hull said. “I had a few more open looks and a lot of our game plans is just trying to make plays and draw defenders out to me.”
Fullove and Vukovich combined for 7-7 shooting in the first 8:41, and they both shot 4-5 from the field. Fullove finished with 14 points and five assists. Vukovich ended his night on the bench, but not before going out with nine points and three pivotal blocks.
Yet it was Hull spraying jumpers everywhere, dismantling Cal Poly at critical points in the game. Hull scored 10 of Santa Barbara’s 12 points at the end of the first half, finishing the half with butter rolling from his fingers after connecting on 5-6 shots in the first 20 minutes of action. Hull continued his rampage in the second half, scoring 16 points.
“This was as aggressive as I’ve seen Mark in both halves of the game,” Williams said. “He was more aggressive and more determined to create things offensively.”
The Gauchos opened up a 17-8 lead on a rim-rattling dunk from Vukovich with 14:47 in the first half. UCSB first opened a double-digit lead, 31-21, with a trey from freshman guard Nick Jones at the 10:19 mark. Santa Barbara kept the onslaught going with excellent passing and phenomenal shooting – a big reason why it has won five games in a row.
Freshman point guard Jacoby Atako was a key player in the outcome of the contest, frustrating and abusing his elder rival, Cal Poly senior point man Watende Favors. Favors, victimized by taunting fans and dreadful shooting and passing, was limited to two assists versus three turnovers and had only six points on 2-11 shooting.
“Jacoby had his best game offensively in a couple games,” Williams said. “He was relieved to hit some shots. Jacoby had one of his better games in a while.”
Atako finished the night with 11 points and four assists with only one turnover. More importantly, Atako made 3-4 shots from the floor, many falling during critical points in the game. A pull-up jumper by the freshman, who slipped by over-eager senior point guard Michael Burris with the shot clock winding down, with 4:25 left in the game was described by Williams as the pivotal bucket for the players regaining their composure and intensity.
“The shot clock was running down, and we needed a shot, and I found myself open,” Atako said. “I figured I should take it, that I can make that shot even though I’ve been struggling a little bit lately.”
The Gauchos led 49-34 at the half, a position Cal Poly despises being in. The Mustangs are 0-12 when they trail at halftime in their games this season.
“I think we have to go back and execute better,” Cal Poly Head Coach Kevin Bromley said. “I did like how we battled back and how [freshman forward Varney] Dennis and [senior forward] Jeremiah Mayes played on the block. I thought we had some decent looks in the first half, and there was a silver lining between our level of play and the score.”
One stat in the Mustang’s favor was that they grabbed 22 offensive rebounds out of their 32 boards.
“Did you see them on the offensive block?” Williams said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team get 22 offensive rebounds. They were all over us. I think they’re a very good basketball team.”
After Atako’s bucket, the Gauchos weathered the storm and made enough free throws down the stretch to seal the victory and secure third place in the Big West.
“The last few games, we’ve found a way to pull out a win,” Williams said. “And it’s a great thing we’re learning.”