A week after dropping its first conference game of the season, the UCSB men’s basketball team returns home this weekend to face future Big West member UC Davis.
After suffering through its worst defeat since 1979 against Long Beach State last week, the Gauchos (11-4 overall, 3-1 in the Big West) responded with a quality road win against UC Irvine. The loss was the Anteaters’ first on their home court this season and snapped a two-game road losing streak for Santa Barbara.
“The difference between being 3-1 in league with a road win and being 2-2 is a huge emotional list for a program and the kids,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I thought we had a lot of mental toughness and competed physically against Irvine.”
The team is still figuring out how to integrate senior guard Cecil Brown, the leading scorer from last season, into the offense. Brown was the high scorer for the Gauchos in the loss to Long Beach and has given Santa Barbara a consistent offensive threat behind junior forward Chris Devine and junior guard Alex Harris.
“I’d say [Brown’s] about 90 percent in terms of his condition and his rhythm offensively and his rhythm with the other players,” Williams said. “He needs to assert himself, but he had some great shots against Irvine.”
Much further from returning to form is senior forward Glenn Turner, who Williams said was about a month away from reaching the level he was at a year ago. The injury to Turner has opened the door for junior forward Ivan Elliott, whose recent performances have helped him steal a starting spot down low away from sophomore forward Tom Garlepp.
Despite Elliott’s progress, the frontcourt lacks a consistent offensive threat to go alongside Devine. The San Francisco native started the conference season strong by reaching double figures in points in the first two contests, but was not a factor in the two games since.
“I’d like to see someone else emerge down low, but Chris is the best we have there,” Williams said. “When Glenn returns I’d like him to take some of that load off.”
UCSB returns to the Thunderdome, where it has posted a 5-2 mark this season and currently owns a four-game home winning streak. In their last home contest, the Gauchos defeated Cal State Fullerton (12-3, 3-1 Big West) in an early season showdown between Big West contenders.
The Aggies (2-11) started the year on a sour note by losing all six contests on a season-opening six-game road trip and have yet to win away from their home court. Most recently the squad squandered a one-point halftime lead and lost to Utah Valley State (10-6) last Saturday at home.
When the two teams met in Santa Barbara last season, the Gauchos dominated the Aggies 73-54, improving to a 10-2 lead in the series. Davis last defeated UCSB in the 2004-05 campaign and lost to Big West foes Long Beach State (11-4, 2-0 Big West) and Irvine (7-9, 1-1 Big West) this year on its home floor.
“Its nice coming home after a big road win,” Devine said. “We’ll have a chance to figure some things out.”
The match up with the Aggies is the Gauchos’ only action of the week and is followed by another one-game week when they host Cal Poly Jan. 20. Tip-off with Davis is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m.