Missing a layup and a free throw for a free dessert and entree at Chevys during a timeout, Jalon Wilson, the son of UCSB men’s basketball Assistant Coach Marty Wilson, dragged his two little feet behind the three-point line.
With all the energy in his tiny frame, Jalon heaved the ball forward and sunk the three-pointer to win dinner for two. The Gauchos, down 18-17 at the time with eight minutes to go in the first half, proceeded to follow Jalon’s example.
The UCSB men’s basketball team roared over Utah State 62-50 Thursday night at the Thunderdome and hurdled crisply into first place in the Big West Conference for the second time in as many weeks.
“Santa Barbara kicked our ass, that’s what happened,” Utah State Head Coach Stew Morrill said.
UCSB beat the Aggies at their own brand of physical, intimidating basketball. The smaller Gauchos matched the Aggies in the rebounding column, garnishing 31 boards. Junior forward Bryan Whitehead collected a career-high 11 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass. The UCSB coaching staff has preached rebounding all year, and Santa Barbara came through in the biggest game of the year so far.
The Gauchos (10-10, 7-3 in the Big West) and junior guard Branduinn Fullove secured a solid dose of revenge from a Jan. 11 loss to the Aggies at Logan, Utah. Fullove played his worst game of the season before 10,000 volatile Aggie fans. A frustrated Fullove scored only seven points on 3-12 shooting.
On Thursday, Fullove blew Utah State (16-5, 7-3) away with a volcanically hot hand.
“Branduinn has a green light to shoot any time he feels it,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said.
Fullove saw green and zoomed for 21 points on 9-13 shooting from the floor. The Simi Valley native also scored his 1,000th point on an 18-foot baseline jumper at 16:53 in the opening half, his first two points of the night.
“I wasn’t that aware of [the milestone],” Fullove said. “I talked with my dad earlier on the phone, and he just told me good luck with that. So that was the first I had heard about it. After the game, I found out I just needed two points. I’m pretty happy about it, though.”
During his exceptional shooting barrage late in the second frame that put Utah State to bed, Fullove hit three rainbow three-point shots. Fullove’s first three came two minutes after Aggie senior forward Desmond Penigar grabbed his crotch, directing the crude gesture at the UCSB student section after a timeout.
Penigar found at least one part of his game-but couldn’t find the magic touch on the court, scoring a dismal two points on 1-9 shooting.
“We didn’t play a full 40 minutes, but it’s mostly my fault – I didn’t play like a senior,” Penigar said.
The crowd rode Penigar whenever he touched the ball, relentlessly prodding and taunting the forward.
“The crowd kinda got in my head a little,” Penigar said. “I didn’t show the leadership that I needed to.”
Fullove’s first three gave UCSB a 50-42 lead with 7:53 remaining. Twenty seconds elapsed, and Fullove knocked down a 17-foot jumper to push the lead over double digits again, 52-42. USU sophomore forward Spencer Nelson answered with an inside bucket. Fullove stroked a high arcing shot from downtown, handing Santa Barbara a 55-44 lead with 6:39 left.
“I was shooting some high arcers before the game, really just messing around,” Fullove said.
Fullove hit his final soaring three for a 58-46 lead with 2:50 left. The guard saved his finest moves for his final acrobatic shot. Fullove shook junior forward Cardell Butler and drained an off-balance, double-pump 20-footer in front of Butler’s outstretched arms. The dagger was in place.
“This win tightens up the league and keeps us in the place where we want to be,” Williams said. “I like how we’re playing. We’re a lot more confident basketball team than we were a month ago.”
When the clock ticked to 0:00, Fullove waved his index finger to the crowd. Perhaps he signaled, with a quiet and triumphant confidence, that the Gauchos are indeed back on top. Or maybe Fullove was simply thanking Jalon Wilson for showing UCSB how to put a shot away.