Senior guard Branduinn Fullove, a three-year starter for the men’s basketball team, went down hard in the first half of Wednesday night’s 74-72 exhibition loss and did not return. The 2002-03 honorable mention All-American fell awkwardly on his left ankle after going up for a block in a fast-break situation against Ratiopharm Ulm, a professional team from Germany. Fullove gingerly crept off the court, crawling to the sidelines in obvious pain. Team physician Dr. Rod Hamer and his staff immediately rushed to aid the writhing Fullove and attended to his foot for nearly ten minutes before helping him to the locker room on crutches at the conclusion of the first half.
“[Fullove’s] on his way to get X-rayed,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said after the game. “He was trying to make an effort play to get himself back in the game. His instinct was that he did something to it. You know, his instinct was that he broke it.”
Although there has been no official diagnosis by team doctors or word over the seriousness of the injury, speculation floating around the Thunderdome after the game hinted that Fullove may miss considerable time this season if the X-rays come back negative. Since Wednesday night’s contest was an exhibition game and the regular season will not officially begin until Nov. 21, when the Gauchos play Hawaii, Fullove is still potentially eligible for redshirting this season if the injury suggests months of recovery.
“I’m going to wait and make those decisions when I get more information,” Williams said about team decisions. “We don’t want to get jump ahead of anything and try to make a decision when I don’t have all the information.”
Fullove was named Big West Player of the Year last season and is 13th on the all-time UCSB scoring charts after only three seasons. The star from Simi Valley, Calif. has averaged 13.7 points per game and over 40 percent shooting from three-point range during his Santa Barbara tenure.
“[The exhibition games] are completely necessary. Any injuries you have out here are just random things,” Wiliams said. “It’s going to happen if it’s going to happen. It’s not like the NFL exhibition where you have multi-million dollar players going down. It’s actually pretty rare to have a season-ending injury in basketball.”
Fullove went down with just over two minutes to play in the first half, and the Gauchos faded into the night. Having built a 27-14 lead with 9:36 left to play in the first half, UCSB’s defense continually dwindled and Santa Barbara trailed the professional team from Germany by a single point at half.
The Gauchos couldn’t find a handle on the offensive end in the second half, failing to make a field goal for a stretch of nearly eight minutes at one point. The Santa Barbara defense did not respond to the challenge mounted by its offensive woes, leaving shooters open for threes and continuously fouling late in the game. Trailing by six with just 35 seconds to play, the Gauchos rallied back to give senior guard Nick Jones an opportunity to tie the game with a last-second bucket. UCSB pumped the ball into Jones on the corner, who had an open look, but could not convert the game-winning three-point attempt.