For the UCSB men’s basketball team, most of Saturday’s 20-point loss to Pacific is easily forgettable. Yet the Gauchos insist they need to remember their beating for the rest of the season.
“We need to remember that taste,” sophomore guard Cecil Brown said after staying after practice to work on his shooting Monday. “We’ve tasted the best and seen the worst this season.”
Santa Barbara hopes tonight’s game at the Thunderdome against visiting UC Riverside can be a sign of good things to come, a sign of more consistency.
UCSB (10-6, 4-3 in the Big West) has been plagued by the turnover bug the last few games, averaging 18 per contest in its last three, including a 13-turnover first half Saturday against UOP.
“It’s time for us to step up and be more consistent,” senior forward Bryan Whitehead said.
The Highlanders (6-9, 3-4 in the Big West) enter the Thunderdome tonight losers of two straight games, including a 62-58 loss to conference-leading Utah State on Saturday night. Riverside is led by Big West Player of the Year candidate sophomore forward Nate Carter. Carter, the 2002-03 Conference Freshman of the Year, is averaging team-bests in points and rebounding at 15.1 and 7.1 respectively. Teamed with Carter is the always-dangerous tandem of junior forward Vili Morton and senior guard Kevin Butler. Before redshirting last season, Morton led the Big West in rebounding (9.3) and blocked shots (3.2) per game. Morton’s numbers are comparably down this season but he may find success against a Santa Barbara defense that has missed leading scorer and rebound junior forward Casey Cook for the last three games.
“[The Highlanders] come to play,” senior guard Nick Jones said. “They almost knocked off Utah State so they’ll be ready to go. But I’m going to get the team ready to go.”
Cook’s status against UCR tonight at 7 is still uncertain after injuring his quadricep over two weeks ago.
Santa Barbara will look for senior leadership to ride this midseason slump. Jones responded with a season-high 14 points against the Tigers and appears more comfortable taking charge of the offense.
“I’m just trying to get my rhythm with the team,” Jones said. “It’s a new team than last year’s, so it’s been a little bit of an adjustment. I’ve tried to get going lately and not be so passive with the team.”
UCSB is currently tied for third place in the Big West with Irvine. The Gauchos host Cal State Fullerton on Saturday night in the second contest of a two-game homestand.