On March 7, The University of California, Santa Barbara Men’s Basketball team took to California State University, Fullerton for the rights to take the lead in hopes to claim the seventh seed in the upcoming Big West tournament. The Gauchos defeated the Titans in dramatic fashion, winning 66-50. The win created a well-timed two-game winning streak for the Gauchos, who are hoping to end the regular season with as much momentum as they can muster. The Gauchos are now 10-19 overall and 6-11 in the Big West Conference.
Cal State Fullerton came into the game as the most prolific scoring team in the conference, averaging 78.4 points per game. The last matchup between these two teams resulted in a high-octane 86-79 Gaucho loss in Fullerton. This time around, the Gauchos mixed things up; their strategy early on was to smother the Titans on defense and force their opposition into taking contested tough shots. This defensive challenge especially came in the form of shutting down fourth-year guard Kwame Vaughn, who came into the game averaging 18.2 points per game—the second most in the Big West Conference. Vaughn ended the night with 20 points, but the Gauchos were able to shut out the rest of the Cal State Fullerton team by holding them to a measly 35.4 percent from the field.
On offense the Gauchos continued to exploit the Titans’ lack in size by dumping the ball down low to second-year big man Al Williams, who led the game in scoring with a whopping 20 points and 14 rebounds. The Gauchos dominance inside proved to be a key ingredient to claiming the victory as the Gauchos out-rebounded the Titans 40 to 21.
“[Every] thing was clicking tonight,” said third-year classics major Yianni Magoulias. “We had those alley-oops and we had those dunks, which is a different side to the Gauchos that we haven’t seen, and it was great because it brought the crowd into it and we were cheering loud. My voice is kind of shot right now. The coach was getting into it, too, and everyone was just having a good time.”
One of the highlights of the night for the Gauchos came in the return of the only graduating fourth-year on the squad, guard Nate Garth, who had been sidelined because of an injury since Jan. 31.
“It’s nice to have him back,” said fourth-year art history major and forward, Shawn Moore. “Seeing him get hurt this second half of the season was hard because he is a huge leader on our team. He continued to lead while he wasn’t playing, of course, but now that he is back we just have a father figure on the court, a leader, and just a great point guard.”
Moore added, “Tonight was big, just to keep momentum. We played well our last two games and we just didn’t want to take a step back. I mean all the momentum we can get going into the Big West Tournament the better.”
In regard to the quickly approaching Big West Conference Tournament, Moore said, “It’s win or go home at the tournament and I think when we play with our season on the line, we’ve responded well and won some games. I think when we have that in the back of our minds we do well. We’re preparing for it and I think if we can keep this momentum we will be ready.”
The Gauchos next and last game of the regular season will be this Saturday as they take on University of California, Riverside.
If you’re interested in going to the Big West Tournament, then sign up and join the buses heading to Anaheim at http://ucsb.prestosports.com/fan_zone/Locos/loco_signup