San Luis Obispo, Calif. – Finally, the Gauchos finished what they started.
The UCSB men’s basketball team cruised to victory Saturday night over coastal rival Cal Poly 78-59 in perhaps its best offensive effort of the year. Sophomore forward Cameron Goettsche and junior guard Joe See scored 15 points apiece, leading a balanced offensive attack and a stifling defense which helped the Gauchos limit the Big West’s leading scorer Varnie Dennis to just 10 points and four rebounds.
“I’m very satisfied, more satisfied than in a long time,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “For the standings, it was a huge win. We haven’t won back-to-back games in a month. This basketball team has to get on a run.”
Cal Poly senior forward Varnie Dennis, averaging 20.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per conference game, played just six minutes in the first half and scored no first-period points after he committed three early fouls. Goettsche and senior forwards Bryan Whitehead and Bray Skultety rotated in the post to defend Dennis in place of starting junior forward Casey Cook, who missed the game due to a strained right quadricep. UCSB responded with a fire-breathing perimeter game, shooting 53 percent from the field and hitting 5-9 three-pointers to jump to a comfortable 37-27 halftime advantage.
“We knew that we had to step up in the post because Casey [Cook] was gone,” Whitehead said. “We knew we had to take it right at [Dennis].”
Santa Barbara out-rebounded the Mustangs 47-25 and held Cal Poly to just 37 percent shooting.
At the 2:48 mark in the first half, senior guard Branduinn Fullove was called for a flagrant foul for bringing down freshman forward John Manley on a fast-break lay-up attempt. Fullove did not receive a technical foul.
” I’m not going to name any names, but I’m not so sure that he should have been kicked out of the game,” Cal Poly Head Coach Kevin Bromley said.
The Gauchos (9-5, 3-2 in the Big West) seized a commanding lead in the first few minutes of the second half, capitalizing a 12-2 run with a three-point dagger by senior guard Nick Jones. Jones scored 13 points and was 3-4 from downtown.
Fullove received a fury of booing from the 3,032 Mustang faithful at Mott Gym after the foul on Manley. The 2002-03 Big West Player of the Year scored just three points on 1-2 shooting but dished out a game-high six assists, including a crowd-silencing half-court ally-oop lead to Goettsche, who threw it down and drew the foul.
Although Dennis eventually found the net at 15:14, scoring in the low block, the Big West Player of the Year candidate never really made an impact for the Mustangs. Senior forward Shane Schilling scored a game-high 26 points on 8-17 shooting, but the Mustangs could provide no legitimate scoring compliment. Santa Barbara responded with a zone defense to slow down the game and ran out the clock for the victory, something the Gauchos could not do against Long Beach State and Utah State earlier this month.
Williams attributed Santa Barbara’s stellar basketball to the hard work the Gauchos have been putting into practice.
“I thought we won [the game] yesterday in practice,” Williams said.
Santa Barbara provided a blow to Cal Poly’s position in the standings. The Mustangs slipped to 1-4 in conference, a tie for last place with Fullerton and Idaho. The Gauchos, tied for fourth place in the Big West with Riverside, resume play against Northridge on Thursday night at 7 in the Thunderdome.