On a roll through two games this season, the UCSB men’s basketball team will look to remain hot when it hosts cross-town NAIA opponent Westmont College in the Thunderdome Friday night.
“It’s a huge cross-town rivalry for them,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We have to stay motivated.”
The Gauchos (3-0) are coming off an 89-56 dismantling of Santa Clara at home on Tuesday night, in which they were led by senior duo Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally. Through two games this season, Nunnally leads the team with 22 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Johnson is second on the team with 17.5 points per game, and junior point guard Nate Garth leads the squad with 4.5 assists per game.
Westmont enters the game with wins against UC Merced and Alaska-Anchorage, and a recent loss to Cal State San Bernardino. Westmont is currently 2-1 on the season, and has yet to win a game on the road after being beaten by CSUSB 70-66 last Friday.
“[Westmont] is really difficult to prepare for,” Williams said. “They run the Princeton offense and like to run and move the ball a lot.”
Preston Branson leads Westmont in scoring with 17 points per game, including a 23 point effort in the loss against San Bernardino. Westmont is a Division III NAIA recognized team that plays within the GSAC against teams like Concordia, Vanguard and San Diego Christian. The matchup against UCSB will be the only Division-I team that Westmont faces this season.
UCSB is undefeated at home thus far this season. Through three games, the Gauchos have outscored their opponenets 230-155. Westmont will be the second Division-III team that UCSB will play this year after beating Division-III opponent Chapman at home last Friday 74-48.
Though UCSB is a team endowed with many preseason awards and honors, including an expected No. 2 finish in the Big West, Santa Barbara emphasizes remaining grounded and humble.
“At this point we are just trying to take it one game at a time and get better,” Johnson said.
Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome.