After splitting its first road swing of the season, the UCSB men’s basketball team must now refocus for the arrival of defending Mountain West Champion Brigham Young University.

The Gauchos are coming off a hard-luck 73-62 loss at USC Monday night and had only a light practice Tuesday afternoon in preparation for arguably the biggest non-conference game at home for Santa Barbara. UCSB locks horns with BYU tonight at 7 in the Thunderdome.

“This is a big game for us,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “This game gives us the chance to play better at home – we need to play good basketball. The main thing we need to do is to rejuvenate ourselves [and prepare ourselves physically for the game].”

Junior forward Mark Hull asserted himself against the Trojans and paced Santa Barbara with 17 points and 3-4 three-pointers in the first half. Sophomore guard Branduinn Fullove contributed 14 points and smoked a career best four three-pointers in the same contest. Unfortunately for the Gauchos, the rest of the team combined for 31 points and 1-7 treys.

“We need more balanced scoring [from the rest of our team],” Williams said. “We need more production out of the post.”

However, Williams also found positives in the USC game that can be carried over to tonight’s contest.

“I thought we rebounded real well and when we got an offensive rhythm going, we played well,” he said.

Santa Barbara out-rebounded the Trojans 40-37 and will need a similar effort tonight to withstand the Cougars’ inside presence. BYU has averaged 11 more rebounds per game in the team’s first two victories against San Diego and Arizona State, averaging 39.5 boards a contest to its opponent’s meager 28.5.

Junior forward Travis Hansen leads BYU with 11.5 rebounds a game and snagged 15 against ASU. Hansen is also averaging 19.5 points a game and led the Cougars with 21 against San Diego. Another vital component in the Cougar’s lineup will be senior forward Eric Nielson with 13.5 points and 6.5 boards a game. Sophomore guard Daniel Bobik is averaging 9.5 points a game.

“As a team, everyone needs to box out,” sophomore point guard Jacoby Atako said. “As long as we do that, we’re fine. The mind frame we’ve had the first few games is as long as we continue to do things that are successful, we’ll be fine.”

Sophomore forward Mark Bigelow leads BYU with 40 points in the young season and registered a scorching 31 points in the home opener Saturday against the Sun Devils. Hull, a similar player in stature to Bigelow, will guard the Cougar in the man formation, according to Williams.

“What I know about [Bigelow] is that he can shoot the ball,” Hull said. “He’ll take the outside shot and we want to take that away from him. I’ll also put more pressure on him on the perimeter. Besides that, I’m going to play him normally, and get after him and be aggressive.”

Atako, Fullove, Hull, and senior centers Adama Ndiaye and Mike Vukovich are the probable starters for UCSB. BYU will likely start Bigelow, Hansen, Nielson, senior guard Matt Montague and freshman center Jared Jensen.

BYU leads the all-time series 3-0 and is 1-0 in the Thunderdome.