In preparation for tonight’s home game against Cal State Fullerton, the members of the UCSB men’s basketball team spent time in practice yesterday rolling around on the floor, occasionally groaning, straddling white padded tubes between their legs.

[media-credit name=”Daniel Wade” align=”alignleft” width=”250″][/media-credit]“They’re called rollers,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “They’re like a massage. [They roll] out the lactic acid buildup in the muscles and get the soreness out of their legs. This time of year your legs are so sore. We do rollers at least twice a week.”

The team is doing what it can to maintain its health 23 games into the season. Including tonight’s game, UCSB has five more to play before the Big West Tournament begins on March 10. At 6-6 in conference play, the Gauchos’ only chance to make its second consecutive appearance in March Madness is to win the Big West Championship and earn an automatic bid.

For now, Williams is concerned about his team’s transition defense against a Fullerton squad that beat the Gauchos 63-58 in the teams’ last outing on Jan. 22.

“We’ve really found the correlation [with our team’s success] is in the giveaway plays,” he said, citing the fact that Fullerton scored 29 of its 63 points off second-chance opportunities and in transition.

At 5-7 in the Big West — one game behind the Gauchos — Fullerton is led by senior Jer’Vaughn Johnson, who averages 14.5 points per game and is second in the conference with a .579 field goal percentage.

“They’re a good shooting team,” Williams said. “They have big, strong, physical players inside, but they aren’t very tall. They’re very good in transition.”

Junior guard Orlando Johnson continues to lead the Gauchos — and the Big West — with 23.8 points per game. In the team’s 66-63 loss to Irvine in its last game, Johnson scored 18 but missed a shot at the end of the game that would have capped UCSB’s comeback from a ten-point deficit with under two minutes to play.

In the Gauchos’ loss to Fullerton, junior guard James Nunnally led all scorers with 19 points and four three-pointers. Nunnally is UCSB’s second-leading scorer, averaging 16.7 points per game.

Tonight’s game against the Titans is set to begin at 7 p.m.