After falling to UCLA in a competitive game on Tuesday, the UCSB men’s basketball team will face yet another tough opponent when it hosts Cal tomorrow at the Thunderdome.

UCSB enters the matchup with a 3-3 record after falling to the No. 19 Bruins 89-76. Cal, meanwhile, enters its first true road game of the season at 6-2. This will be the Golden Bears’ first trip to Santa Barbara since the inaugural game at the Thunderdome in 1979.

“After this loss to UCLA, knowing that we can compete with any school in the country, we’re feeling extremely motivated. To get a big fish out here at the Thunderdome, we’re just excited about it,” senior guard Kyle Boswell said. “It’s going to be a fun experience, hopefully a lot of people will come out to the game, and we’ll put on a good show and the result will show it.”

Despite the 3-3 mark, the Gauchos have outperformed their record, narrowly dropping games against Utah State and Colorado without junior center Alan Williams. With Williams, Santa Barbara is 3-1, the lone loss coming to UCLA.

“We’re encouraged by the fact that we can compete in a game like this in the future. We had a good shot at putting them away and getting the upset,” Boswell said. “We have to take out the positive things because we have a huge game on Friday against Cal coming to our place. We just know that we can play with anyone and we’ve proven that this year.”

Against the Bruins, UCSB did not look like a team from a smaller conference facing a power conference team. Instead, Santa Barbara battled for the majority of the game, taking a 42-42 tie into the half at legendary Pauley Pavilion. UCSB even led in the second half before a run by the Bruins put the game out of reach. Big Al led the Gauchos with 23 points to go along with eight rebounds, but the outside shooting of UCSB was the real storyline in this game.

Boswell finished with 18 points shooting 5-9 from behind the arc. Sophomore guard Michael Bryson added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Bryson and junior guard Zalmico Harmon each shot 3-5 from the three while sophomore forward Taran Brown was 2-6. Overall, UCSB shot 50 percent on threes, including an impressive 9-14 in the first half.

“We have a lot of good shooters on the perimeter surrounding Al down low, so if we’re not hitting threes and having people close down on us hard, we’re going to go inside,” Boswell said. “If we go inside and they’re doubling Al, we’re going to kick it out. We have a lot of inside-outside game that we pride ourselves on, especially with two quick point guards that can get into the lane.”

Looking ahead to another Pac-12 opponent, UCSB hosts a Golden Bears’ squad that defeated Big West team UC Irvine 73-56 on Monday. Senior guard Justin Cobbs leads Cal with 14 points and over six assists per game. Senior forward Richard Solomon will provide a formidable opponent down low against Big Al, as the senior averages a double-double with over 11 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Santa Barbara certainly has the weapons to challenge the Golden Bears, led by Big Al’s Big West leading numbers of 27.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. Bryson ranks second on the team with 12.7 points per game, while Boswell is third at 11 points and Brown fourth at 10.7 points per game.

Friday’s matchup against Cal looms as the Gauchos biggest nonconference home game of the season.

“[A victory against Cal] would be huge. UCLA was a really big team and that just showed us just how dominant Big Al is,” Boswell said. “We nearly beat Utah State and Colorado even without Al, so the fact that he’s going to be a presence on Friday, they’re going to have to pick their spots. He’s going to cause a lot of problems for Cal so hopefully we’ll take advantage of that.”

Friday’s tip-off against Cal is scheduled for 7 p.m.


A version of this article appeared on page 8 of December 5, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.

Photo by Peter Vandenbelt of The Daily Nexus.