The UCSB men’s basketball team was dealt a huge blow last night in Northridge, experiencing its first conference loss of the season and losing another Gaucho to the injured list.
After senior forward Casey Cook went down hard with 7:58 to play in the first half, the Gauchos (4-6 overall, 2-1 in the Big West) couldn’t break out of a first-half funk and went on to lose 70-50 to the Matadors (4-7, 2-1). After beating its first two Big West opponents at home last week, Santa Barbara went cold in Northridge, shooting just 36 percent from the floor and allowing CSUN to control the tempo from the get-go.
“I’m going to give a lot of credit to Northridge,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “Their defense was better than it was in the Big West Tournament last year.”
When Cook went down, the Gauchos were already behind by 14 points. Cook hit the floor hard, grimacing in pain and grabbing his right foot. UCSB athletic trainer Leroy Heu helped him off the floor after it was clear that Cook was unable to apply pressure.
Santa Barbara’s leading scorer sat out the remainder of the game and came out of the locker room with crutches after halftime. Media Relations Director Bill Mahoney said that Cook will take an X-ray today to assess the injury.
If Cook is unable to play, the Gauchos, who have been plagued by injuries all season long, will have just eight players healthy enough to suit up for games. Junior guard Cecil Brown is out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury.
“We’re already beat up so when you take [Casey] away, it’s not a plus,” Williams said. “I think we have to find other guys to fill in. [Junior forward] Josh [Davis] and [walk-on freshman guard] Derek [Rasp] are going to have to play some [power forward].”
CSUN went to work from the outset, working the ball inside and out to generate results. Freshman guard Jonathan Heard looked impressive in the open court and was able to break down Santa Barbara’s zone and get to the hoop.
CSUN senior guard Ian Boylan, a candidate for Big West Player of the Year, was held was unable to score in the first half, but that didn’t stop him from making his mark on the court. Boylan finished with a game-high ten assists and snatched four of CSUN’s 16 steals on the evening.
“We stress team defense a lot,” Heard said. “We just looked good from all aspects as a team.”
Freshman guard Alex Harris led Santa Barbara with 13 points on 3-4 shooting. CSUN forced 20 Gaucho turnovers and held UCSB to just 3-16 from the three-point range. Junior guard Joe See finished with just six points in 29 minutes and was 0-6 from behind the arc.
UCSB now hits its most strenuous part of the schedule, playing Utah State on the road Thursday and then traveling to Idaho on Sunday.