For the first 20 minutes of play on Saturday night, the UCSB men’s basketball team was nearly perfect.
The Gauchos drubbed Cal State Fullerton 77-44 at the Thunderdome, holding the Titans to just nine first-half points. Holding Fullerton to just 15 percent first-half shooting, the Gauchos set a new school record for lowest points allowed in a first half and, more importantly, added another Big West win to keep pace with Utah State and the University of the Pacific, which sit atop the conference charts.
“We’ve won five of six,” said an enthusiastic UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams.
“We’re getting better. I don’t think we’re quite there. We have a lot of upsides. I like the adjustments we’re making as a group.”
With 12:18 to go in the first half, sophomore guard Cecil Brown drained a three-point basket that started the Santa Barbara scoring barrage. The Gauchos ended the half on an awe-inspiring 30-3 run, culminated by a last-second fade-away jumper by senior forward Bray Skultety. The Gauchos hit the locker room with the game clearly out of hand at 39-9.
“I’ve never sat through a game like that in 34 years,” Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Bob Burton said of the lowest scoring half in school history. “It was the way [the Gauchos] played defense. I knew after the Pacific loss that we were playing them at the wrong time. Bob [Williams] has got their attention now.”
Center Pape Sow, a possible NBA prospect for Fullerton, was limited to just one point and two rebounds in the first half, after amassing four first-half fouls. The vocal junior was called for an offensive foul, his third of the contest with 7:08 to play, but convinced Burton to let him remain in the game. Just two minutes later, senior forward Bryan Whitehead collected the ball in the low post, drawing a foul on Sow and scoring the basket.
“We didn’t even get to the stage of getting him the ball,” Burton said.
In the second half, Santa Barbara set the offense in cruise control and rolled to victory. Santa Barbara emptied its bench, which provided an impressive 54 points. Sophomore guard Joe See led the way, securing a career-high 21 points on 7-12 shooting, including five three-pointers. Brown scored 12 points on 3-5 shooting with no turnovers in 20 minutes. Junior forward Casey Cook finished with 10 points on 5-6 shooting in just 13 minutes. Cook returned to action on Thursday against Riverside after missing three games with an injured right quad but looked strong in the post against the Big West’s leading offensive rebounding squad in Fullerton.
“My legs felt great tonight,” Cook said. “It’s more mental for me right now.”
Sophomore forward Cameron Goettsche added 10 points and eight boards in 18 minutes, running the fast break and throwing down two spectacular alley-oop dunks. In addition, Goettsche looked nearly invincible with his outside shooting, showing off his range on several open-perimeter looks.
“It’s really important to have a balanced attack,” Williams said. “Then teams have to make decisions. We want you to have to pick your poison. The flow of the game gets you a lot of looks. We encourage guys to shoot when it’s your shot.”
The Gauchos will prepare for their toughest road trip of the season this week, with games at the University of Idaho on Thursday and at Utah State on Saturday evening.