With an impressive road victory already on its resume this season, the UCSB men’s basketball team will have a chance to add another road win today when it faces Colorado in a game that will be aired on the Pac-12 Network.
Santa Barbara enters the game with a 2-1 record, while Colorado, a NCAA Tournament team last year, comes into Thursday’s contest at 4-1 on the season. UCSB holds a 5-3 advantage all-time against the Buffaloes, but the two schools last met in 1996 with Colorado winning.
In their previous game, the Gauchos fell to Utah State 71-64 playing without their best player in junior center Alan Williams. Big Al suffered from back spasms minutes before the opening tip-off, and while he made the road trip to Colorado, he is unexpected to play.
Williams leads both the Gauchos and the Big West averaging 24 points and 13 rebounds per game this season.
Colorado opened the season with a loss to No. 20 Baylor but has since won four-straight games, all at home. Thursday’s contest will be the Buffaloes’ fifth game in a six-game homestand. Colorado has received votes in both major polls and would be ranked No. 34 in the Coaches’ Poll and No. 37 in the AP Poll, respectively.
Junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie ranks second for Colorado with 12.4 points per game, providing a steady option from the outside where he is shooting .417 from beyond the arc.
Sophomore forward Josh Scott, meanwhile, anchors Colorado on the inside, averaging team highs in points (14.6 per game) and rebounds (eight per game). The 6’10” Scott will certainly provide a formidable post presence against the Gauchos in what could be a marquee matchup should Big Al play Thursday.
Just over a week ago, Santa Barbara demolished UNLV 86-65 on the road, showing this relatively young team can handle the pressures of the road. The Gauchos’ ability to handle hostile crowds will be significantly tested in Boulder where the Buffaloes have averaged over 8,500 fans in attendance during their first four home games.
In the absence of Williams, sophomore forward Sam Beeler posted 14 points and five rebounds in a career-high 28 minutes played against Utah State. Beeler will most likely be relied upon heavily once again versus Colorado with William’s availability in question.
Last Saturday against Utah State, the Aggies did not have to worry about double-teaming Big Al and instead focused on shutting down UCSB’s perimeter shooters from finding open looks. No one felt it harder than senior guard Kyle Boswell who shot 2-6 from behind the arc despite shooting .500 on the season. Boswell is second on the team with 13.3 points per game.
Sophomore guard Michael Bryson, meanwhile registered a season-high 15 points against the Aggies and ranks third on the team averaging 12.3 points per game.
Thursday night’s game will certainly provide the Gauchos with an opportunity to make a statement to the rest of the conference if they can win against a Pac-12 program that has compiled three-straight 20-plus win seasons.
Tip-off Thursday against Colorado is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of November 21’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of the Daily Nexus.