Tomorrow is no time to slam on the brakes.
The UCSB men’s basketball team will lock horns with Cal Poly Saturday night at 7 in the Thunderdome in a game where both squads must stick to the fast lane.
The key for the Gauchos will be defending their home court and locking-in on the Mustangs’ top offensive weapons to perch alone in third place in the Big West. Not only will Cal Poly also have eyes for third place, but Santa Barbara’s adversaries will be searching for a dose of revenge.
Cal Poly has won five of its last six games since a 74-67 setback by the Gauchos on Jan. 19. The loss was the Mustang’s only blemish at Mott Gym this season.
“They’re a very good team,” UCSB Assistant Coach Marty Wilson said. “[Cal Poly Head Coach] Kevin Bromley’s done a good job with those guys.”
One of those players has been sophomore forward Varnie Dennis. Dennis, who has the potential to cause matchup nightmares for Santa Barbara, averages 15.5 points and 5.7 rebounds a game. Senior forward Brandon Beeson is also having a fine season with 12.2 ppg and a team-high 6.6 rpg.
Dennis torched UCSB in what Wilson said was “one of his best games” of the season. The sophomore sensation drilled 27 points on 11-15 shooting.
“We’re going to focus on him,” Wilson said. “When he got on the right block we wanted to double team him and on the left block we didn’t want to. A double team on the left wouldn’t affect him because he shoots off his left shoulder. He was on top of his game.”
Dennis might have been hot that night, but UCSB senior center Adama Ndiaye was scorching.
Ndiaye poured in 31 points, corralled 13 rebounds and rejected three shots in what was unquestionably the finest game of his career.
“Whoever happens to get hot, we have to get him the ball,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “You know what, if Adama gets hot again, we’ll get it to him … Expect it to be a more balanced-scoring game. I’d love to have four or five guys in double figures for us.”
Cal Poly boasts junior sharpshooter Steve Geary who leads the team in free throw and three-point shooting. Geary has been a steady hand off the bench for the Mustangs, leading the team in scoring with 19 in a Feb. 7 win over CSUN.
“We can’t let Geary get going, even though he doesn’t start,” Williams said.
One advantage on the stat sheet for UCSB would be on defense. The Mustangs are shooting a pedestrian 41.7 percent from the floor while allowing 45 percent.
Conventional thinking would have the Gauchos blanketing Cal Poly with the best field-goal-percentage defense in the country. UCSB is the only Division I school to hold its opponents below 37 percent while shooting at 36.7 percent. Santa Barbara took the lead from Cincinnati after limiting Northridge last Saturday to 35.4 percent.
“We can’t take any stat for granted,” junior point guard B.J. Ward said. “We have to come out and play good basketball … We have to be the type of team that comes out aggressively every night. That’s what it always boils down to: defense.”