No love will be in the air inside the Thunderdome tonight when the Gauchos take on rival Cal Poly.
UCSB is coming off a disappointing 65-59 loss to UC Irvine which dropped them to 17-6 overall and 6-4 in the Big West while the Mustangs (9-13 overall, 4-6 in Big West) have had their ups and downs in conference play. Santa Barbara was up by 10 against the Anteaters last Saturday, but the Gauchos’ 27.3 percent shooting clip in the second half allowed Irvine back into the game. After the team’s third home loss in conference play, players and coaches alike are eager to move on.
“We just put that one in the past,” Assistant Coach David Campbell said. “It’s over and obviously we let a golden opportunity slip away from us, but we need to forget about that. We’ve got six league games to go and we need to focus on those and hopefully finish strong and get in one of those top two spots for the league tournament where we’re able to get two byes.”
Cal Poly has gone 2-2 in its last four games since losing one of its more dangerous outside threats in senior guard Dawin Whiten, who may be out for the season with a foot injury. Currently at sixth place in the Big West as a result, the Mustangs do have their formidable frontcourt of junior forward Titus Shelton and senior forward Dreshawn Vance still fully intact. The pair help make up Cal Poly’s conference-leading 3.3 blocks per game, however, the Mustangs surprisingly maintain the league’s worst rebounding margin with opponents beating them on the boards by nearly six per contest.
“In the game against Irvine, we kind of went away from what was working which was going inside-out,” sophomore guard Justin Joyner said. “We want to get back to that and play from there because it’s hard to guard our big guys; they’re probably the best in the league. So we want to go through them and for the guards, when the ball kicks back out, that’s when we do our damage.”
Joyner nailed four threes on his way to a career-high 16 points against the Anteaters, but UCSB struggled from beyond the arc in the second half. The Gauchos had no problem with the long ball in San Luis Obispo, earlier this season, in fact, that’s actually what kept them in that game. Even though Santa Barbara shot 50 percent from three and 37.7 percent from the field in that one, this meeting with the Mustangs will be about improving the offense as a whole.
“I think we need to get back on that track and reestablish ourselves offensively by staying in it, setting better screens, and getting everyone touches,” sophomore guard Paul Roemer said. “We’re going to have tough games. We just have to work through it and keep grinding through the season. It’s a long season and hopefully we’ll just get back on track and keep playing hard.”
Tip-off for this conference clash is set for 7 pm.