The moments that define a young basketball team are how it responds in the face of adversity. Facing such adversity, the UCSB men’s basketball team will have a chance to make a statement and end a three-game losing skid tonight when they face Hawaii on the road.
With possibly only eight players eligible to play due to injury, the third youngest team in the nation has struggled in rebounding from injuries to several critical players. UCSB enters tonight’s matchup with an 8-18 overall record and 4-10 mark in conference, while Hawaii is 16-11 on the season and 9-6 in the Big West.
“[Injuries are] definitely tough in general for any team, but especially for us,” freshman forward Taran Brown said. “We’re such a young team and we haven’t had a lot of chances to handle that kind of adversity. We’ve just got to come together in times like this and push it the rest of the season.”
UCSB previously dropped a 51-50 decision to Sacramento State in the BracketBusters game and must now return to conference play against the third place Warriors. Santa Barbara sits in eighth place in the conference standings, a mere half game ahead of Cal State Northridge for the final slot in the postseason tournament.
Hawaii, meanwhile, is coming off an 84-50 victory over Northern Arizona that snapped a two-game skid. The last time these two teams met in Santa Barbara, junior forward Christian Standhardinger went off for career-highs with 31 points and 16 rebounds in a 78-73 Hawaii victory.
“We definitely can’t let him get off,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We’ve got to do a better job on all their guys inside. We got our rear ends handed to us inside on the glass and we have to fight harder, block out better, and be more physical in keeping them off the glass.”
Santa Barbara will potentially be without one of its top scorers in junior guard Kyle Boswell, who is sitting out with an injured shoulder. Sophomore center Alan Williams, the team’s leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker has also only played in two games since returning from a sprained ankle.
“We’ll have to see how we come out and play and practice,” Coach Williams said. “It was actually kind of impressive after a nine hour travel day they came out and practiced really well. Practice was good, they were feisty, they were competitive; things we want to see.”
Practice may have been a little too feisty though, as Brown cracked his nose during Tuesday’s practice in Hawaii.
“I’m definitely in some pain right now,” Brown said. “I’m going to have to wear a mask tomorrow in the game, but I can’t let it hold me back, I’ve got to keep going. At this point we don’t think I broke my nose.”
As Santa Barbara struggles to rebound from a slow season and tries to clinch a spot in the postseason tournament, maybe a trip to Hawaii is exactly what the Gauchos needed to get them back on track.
“I like the idea of coming out to Hawaii, getting a smile on our faces and just getting some positive energy,” Brown said. “I think that’s a big thing we need right now with this type of season.”
Tonight’s tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
A version of this article appeared on page 10 of February 28th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.
Photo by Magali Gauthier of the Daily Nexus.