The UCSB men’s basketball faces the University of Idaho tonight at 7 at the Cowan Spectrum in Moscow. The Gauchos hope to end a five-game road losing skid that began over a month ago.
If Santa Barbara can’t get on track during the daunting Idaho/Utah State swing, then the only thing UCSB will face in the standings is a 1-3 start in Big West action and 10 defeats. The Gauchos dropped a total of 10 games heading into the NCAA Tournament last season.
“We need to handle adversity and play better,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We are very disappointed with ourselves at this stage in the season.”
The Gauchos (4-8, 1-1 in the Big West) have struggled in year’s past against the Vandals, falling in the last two road meetings by a combined four points. UCSB held Idaho to 12 first half points on Feb. 2 before faltering 40-37. In 2000-01, the Vandals dropped Santa Barbara 68-67.
Santa Barbara has never won at Idaho.
“It’s a tough trip,” junior guard Branduinn Fullove said. “There’s a lot of down time and there’s not a lot to do. It’s cold outside and we’re out of our comfort zone. But once we get to the gym, it’s just like any other place. Hopefully we can focus on what we need to do and beat the snow and the cold that sometimes takes away a team’s focus.”
Fullove may not get a chance to even lace his sneakers. The starting guard is questionable for tonight with a lingering groin injury. If Fullove’s pain does not substantially subside during full speed workouts, then Williams will likely sit his leading scorer.
Idaho (5-6, 1-1) boasts five players averaging over nine points a game, including junior 6’4″ forward Tyrone Hayes, who leads the Vandals with averages of 14 ppg and 7 rpg while sinking 50 percent from three point land. Hayes has 21 blocks and swiped 15 balls.
“Hayes is a heck of a player,” Williams said. “He’s really the most difficult guy on this team to try to defend.”
The Vandals will probably start senior point guard Justin Logan, sophomore guard Sam Jackson, Hayes, junior forward Rashaad Powell and junior forward Jon Tinnon. Junior forward Jack May and his 11 ppg will come off the bench.
Santa Barbara is 0-3 in true road games this year.
“We know it’s a must-win,” senior guard B.J. Ward said.
UCSB will likely start junior guards Jacoby Atako and Nick Jones, freshman guard Cecil Brown, sophomore forward Casey Cook and senior All-Big West forward Mark Hull.
“I don’t know if Idaho’s the magic place, but we have to turn a light on and turn this thing around,” Fullove said.