As the Big West’s weakest rebounding squad heading into last weekend, the Gauchos knew they could do only one thing to squelch complaints that they are too small: rebound big, win big.
The UCSB men’s basketball team did just that, bopping the University of the Pacific over the head while mutilating the Tigers 67-52 Saturday night at the Thunderdome.
Santa Barbara won the game on the boards, dominating the glass 37-21 while countering every UOP attack with two or more counter punches until the Tigers had X’s where their eyes should have been and lollipop tongues instead of mouths.
“I went in and checked to make sure it was my same guys in the locker room,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams joked. “We haven’t out-rebounded anyone this year, let alone by 16. That’s huge number for us.”
The Gauchos started only two players over 6’6″, senior forward Mark Hull and sophomore forward Casey Cook. Santa Barbara has combined for only 30.6 rpg, the second worst number in the conference behind cellar-dweller Long Beach State at 30.3 rpg. Santa Barbara stifled Pacific on defense, forcing 31.8 percent field goal shooting in the opening half and only three offensive rebounds for the game.
“Our defense and our energy at rebounding and our energy at attacking defensively was really good,” Williams said.
Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones, a pair of junior guards, attacked the glass consistently, combining for 13 rebounds. Freshman guard Cecil Brown ripped down a career-high six boards. UOP’s starting frontline could only muster seven boards. Fullove gleaned a season-high eight boards while leading all scorers with 17 points on 5-8 shooting, including 2-5 from three-point range.
“I felt like I was more in rhythm,” Fullove said. “It felt good to be out there and knock two down.”
One key series early in the contest set the tempo, and the Gauchos (7-9, 4-2 in the Big West) rolled on its wave for the next 38 minutes. Fullove committed an offensive foul at 18:35 in the first half to the roaring disapproval of the 2,772 T-dome faithful. The next possession, Fullove returned the favor, taking a charge and a seat on the floor against slicing UOP senior guard Demetrius Jackson, who committed the first of his nine turnovers.
“It definitely pumped up the team especially since I just did the same thing on the other end,” Fullove said. “It’s nice to get it back right away.”
Jones, who would celebrate his 22nd birthday later that night, gave himself something to savor in the meantime with 14 points on 5-7 shooting, 2-2 on treys. Jones hit both of his threes when UOP (8-6, 3-2) tried to rally.
Pacific could get no closer than 13 in the second half before the Gauchos went on a series of backbreaking runs. For the second game in a row, UCSB extended a double-digit lead into the second half.
“I thought we answered them well tonight,” Williams said. “When they made plays or hit threes, we came back and hit threes right back on them. I thought our guys responded to their challenges.”
Cook continued torching the nets with 10 points, including 5-6 from the charity stripe. Brown (eight points in the first half) and freshman guard Josh Davis (three steals) played extremely well, according to Williams. Davis stole the ball from Jasko Korajkic and then knocked the ball off Korajkic’s legs out of bounds at 9:56 in the second frame. Davis pumped his fists and the raucous crowd yelled with him in glee.
“Those plays get everyone crazy. It’s somebody risking their body,” Jones said. “I’m a guy that’s all for that, you know, diving into the crowd.”
Guard Tom Cockle scored 15 points for the Tigers.
“They hurt us in every aspect of the game. They dominated,” UOP Head Coach Bob Thomason said.
Hull scored only eight points for UCSB, but is now only 16 points away from becoming just the fourth Gaucho with 1,400 career points. With six more three-point baskets, Hull will be the most prolific three-point shooter in school history.