With the Big West standings changing on a daily basis, the UCSB men’s basketball team hopes to improve its position tonight against the conference’s worst team.
UCSB currently resides in the middle of the pack with a 4-3 Big West record (15-5 overall), but UC Riverside (4-14, 1-6 in the Big West) appears to be headed for its third consecutive season as a league bottom-feeder. Not happy with its performance against Pacific last Thursday, Santa Barbara trounced UC Davis this past Saturday in a win that the Gauchos hope will put them back on a winning track.
“In the league we were 3-3 and then 4-3 [after defeating Davis], so we just have to keep moving ahead and keep our heads up,” senior forward Nedim Pajevic said. “[It] was not the best start we wanted and not the start that we imagined for ourselves in the preseason, but hopefully this will turn it around and we’ll keep going forward.”
Pajevic was a significant contributor off the bench against the Aggies, along with junior guard D.J. Posley and freshman guard Jordan Weiner. Posley showed off his midrange game and scored six points in the second half, while Weiner sank two three-pointers.
“When you’re on the bench, you just keep yourself focused and try to stay in the game as much as possible,” Weiner said. “Getting up and cheering your teammates on – that’s how I stay focused. I just try to keep my head in the game and I know eventually I’ll get my shots, and today I got it.”
Senior guard Alex Harris is coming off a season-low 14 points versus the Aggies. And despite six turnovers, Harris registered a block, a steal, an assist, and a rebound in the game, marking only the third time he has done all four this season.
“He looked much better [against Davis],” Williams said. “We got a more Al-like performance, even though the scoring wasn’t as high as he’s used to. I think his performance was pretty good in terms of his patience, his defensive commitment and his willingness to share the ball.”
UC Riverside limps into Wednesday night’s contest having lost eight of its last nine games, including two recent double-digit defeats at Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine. The Highlanders are led by a lone bright spot in senior guard Larry Cunningham, who averages 14.4 points per game and has picked 23 pockets this season.
The Highlanders feature a three-guard starting lineup with Cunningham, sophomore Sean Cunningham (no relation to Larry), and freshman Jalonni Diggs, each with roles less focused on scoring. Sean Cunningham is the team’s second-best rebounder as well as second on the squad in assists, behind Diggs, who is easily the Highlanders’ top distributor with 58 assists on the year.
UCSB will play only one game this week before returning to the Thunderdome to begin its three-game homestand next Thursday.
“We’re looking to win one game at a time,” Weiner said. “If we look too far ahead, we’ll lose focus, as it’s shown at the beginning of [the] conference.”
Tip-off for tonight’s contest is set for 7 at the Student Recreation Center Gym in Riverside.