Even with the return of The Phantom to the Thunderdome, the UCSB men’s basketball team had little to smile about Thursday night in its 66-57 loss to Fullerton.
The Titans came in third place in the Big West and only widened the gap between the upper echelon and doldrums of the conference. Fullerton senior forward Ralphy Holmes was the noticeable difference in the game, notching 12 points and 13 rebounds to lead Fullerton to their first defeat of UCSB since the 1993-94 season.
“He’s just so quick,” freshman guard Derek Rasp said. “We had trouble keeping him in front of us off the dribble, and he can elevate on his shot — we have trouble contesting his shots.”
The Gauchos were not without their chances in the defeat. A Rasp three-pointer with 4:22 left in the game brought Santa Barbara within four points of the Titan lead, but a 7-0 Fullerton run put the game away.
“We got some pretty good looks. We got in a little better rhythm and we had a few buckets, but at the same time, I think Fullerton responded to that and they raised their intensity level the last 10 minutes,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said.
Free throws were of much concern to Williams, who watched his team go 12-21 at the charity stripe.
“Free throws for us are like post entries for another team. That is our low-post game, so we’ve got to make free throws,” Williams said. “A drive to the rim is how we have to generate a post game, so we shoot ourselves in the foot when we miss free throws and front ends of one-and-ones.”
UCSB also struggled on the glass, as Fullerton out-rebounded the Gauchos 42-33. Holmes, listed at a generous 6’4″, did most of the damage to UCSB, collecting five on the offensive end.
“I think [Holmes] and [senior forward Yaphett] King are two guys that are so difficult to match up with,” Williams said. “They change the game. They’re inside, they’re out — they can play the game, they’re great defenders; they’re tenacious, they’re tough and physical.”
Rasp was the lone bright spot for the Gauchos, recovering from a dry spell with 15 points.
“I’ve had a couple off games lately shooting. I haven’t been able to find my rhythm since coming back from the injury, but my teammates were getting me involved tonight,” Rasp said.
UCSB will return to action Saturday when it will host Riverside at 4 p.m. The game will be the last home game for UCSB and will also be their senior night. UCSB will honor seniors Chrismen Oliver and Casey Cook, who will likely miss the rest of the season to due injury.