With its nonconference trip to UC Davis – and its first road win of the season – out of the way, the UCSB men’s basketball team is saddling up for the first game of two in its long-standing rivalry against Cal Poly this weekend.
The Gauchos (7-8 overall, 1-3 in the Big West) travel to San Luis Obispo on Saturday in search of a second-straight road win, coming off of a 64-50 victory over Davis last Sunday. Cal Poly (4-11 overall, 2-2 Big West) has had over a week off after dropping a 65-52 decision to the Aggies.
As it looks to get into the upper half of the conference standings, UCSB – currently tied for last with Cal State Northridge – needs to feed off of its win over Davis to get its second conference win.
“We feel a lot better about [going to Cal Poly] after getting a win on the road,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We got the momentum going our direction. It’s really a must-win game. We have to win to scratch our way back into the title hunt.”
As far as personnel are concerned, things are looking positive for the Gauchos. Although junior forward Glenn Turner has missed practice all week due to injury, the rest of the team appears to be on the upswing. Senior guard Joe See has recorded three straight double-digit games. Since moving to the point position, See has stepped into his leadership role on the court and is averaging 7.9 points per game while shooting 44 percent from three-point range – best on the team and fifth in the Big West.
“We moved [See] to the point,” Williams said. “In that role he gets way more minutes. He’s really taking hold of the position, running the team, getting verbal and showing leadership. The better he plays there, the more minutes he gets and the more minutes he plays, the more mistakes defenses are making against him to let him shoot open shots.”
Along with See, sophomore forward Chris Devine, senior guard Cecil Brown and sophomore guard Alex Harris have been major contributors offensively for UCSB. Devine leads the conference in field goal percentage, draining 62 percent of his shots. Brown leads the Gauchos in scoring with 13.6 points per game, while Harris averages 8.6 points per game and has dished out 39 assists so far. Devine and Harris are also first and third on the team in rebounding, respectively.
The Mustangs have lost 14 of their last 16 games against UCSB and – after winning two straight to start the Big West season – are on a three-game losing streak. Despite the wins and losses, Cal Poly’s Mott Gymnasium becomes hostile territory when the Gauchos come to town. A near-capacity crowd of 2,743 filled the stands for last season’s Central Coast rivalry matchup.
“It’s a great rivalry, both teams enjoy it,” Williams said. “[Mott Gym] is small, compact and intimate and we love how much their fans get into it.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday in San Luis Obispo.