Sometimes the opportunity for payback comes at just the right time.

UCSB heads south to the Matadome to face Cal State Northridge in tonight’s clash of two teams vying for regular season dominance in the Big West. Beginning at 7 p.m., the Gauchos (21-7 overall, 10-4 in Big West) will face the Matadors (19-8, 11-3 in Big West) in what might be the biggest conference game of the season.

The Gauchos remain in a four-team race for the top two seeds and byes through the first three rounds of the Big West Tournament. But Santa Barbara has been on a tear of late, losing just two games in the previous six weeks.

“In the last three games, we’ve had a pretty good mindset in terms of the way we’ve played,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We’ve been tougher. The second half at Utah State we shot the three better, [against UCR] we shot the three way better and we’re starting to get into a rhythm.”

Senior guard Al Harris, who surpassed Mark Hull on UCSB’s all-time scoring list last Saturday, was named to the Second Team All-District 15 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches earlier this week. Harris put up 25 points in the Gauchos’ previous meeting with the Matadors at the Thunderdome. Led by junior guard Deon Tresvant’s 31 points, Northridge managed to come back from a 13-point second half deficit to steal the win in that game.

“Last time we lost by four and we played a phenomenal game,” Harris said. “So the guys’ confidence is pretty high. We’ll be energized and ready to play 100 percent. I feel like we’re peaking right now.”

Away from the Thunderdome, Santa Barbara holds an 8-4 record in true road games and in all of those contests, except one, either Harris or Powell has led UCSB in scoring.

“We just play more together,” Harris said. “More often [the opponents] are playing their best basketball so we know we have to play a more flawless game to get the win. We’ll come in with that chip on our shoulder, but [the Matadors] are the ones on top so they have that target on their backs.”