With the majority of Big West squads jockeying for position atop conference standings as they head towards the midway point of the season, the men’s basketball team (8-9 overall, 2-3 in the Big West) will try to build a winning streak on the road this weekend coming off a necessary 72-62 win against rival Cal Poly on Saturday.

On tap for the Gauchos this weekend are UC Davis and Pacific, two teams that are itching to prove that they are serious conference contenders. The Aggies (8-10 overall, 3-2 in the Big West) are surfacing as a Big West threat for the first time in their Division I tenure. Davis enters their match-up with Santa Barbara boasting the second highest-scoring offense in the Big West, thanks in large part to top tier guards Joe Harden (15.0 points per game) and Vince Oliver (14.4 points per game), the third and fourth highest scorers respectively in conference.

The Tigers (10-6 overall, 3-2 in the Big West), a one-time perennial Big West powerhouse, appear as though they are returning to prominence this season, currently sitting second in the overall standings.

“I think both teams are capable of being a top seed [in the Big West Tournament],” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “They are well balanced teams that can score inside and out, and have healthy rosters with a good mix of veterans and young players.”

Health has undoubtedly been an issue for the Gauchos this season, recently losing junior guard Paul Roemer to a shoulder injury. He joins junior forward Jesse Byrd (knee) and junior point guard Justin Joyner (wrist) on the injured list, both of whom would be starting.

Though the absence of key players has left Coach Williams with an inexperienced and often fluctuating starting lineup, significant bench contributions have allowed the Gauchos to stay afloat in the Big West. Santa Barbara reserves combined for 44 points against Cal Poly to lead UCSB to only their second win in conference. Senior guard D.J. Posley teamed with sophomore guard Jordan Weiner to lead the depleted four-man bench over the Mustangs, both notching career-highs in points with 17 and 14 respectively.

“They [Posley and Weiner] have golden opportunities with all of our injuries,” Williams said. “It is much needed for the bench to contribute if we want to keep winning.”

Though it is unexpected that the bench will have a repeat performance in accounting for more than half of the Gaucho’s points, there is little question that it will take a complete effort from the bench and starters for Santa Barbara to dig itself out of an early season rut. Wins in both of the upcoming away games would put UC Santa Barbara over the .500 mark, paying huge dividends in a closely contested Big West.