DATE & TIME: Thursday, January 5th, 7:00 p.m. (pt).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Thunderdome (6,000) -- Santa Barbara, California. Television: None. Home Record: Fullerton 6-1, UCSB 4-2. Away Record: Fullerton 3-1, UCSB 2-3. Neutral Record: Fullerton 1-1, UCSB 0-0. Conference Record: Fullerton 2-0, UCSB 1-0. Series Record: UC Santa Barbara leads, 38-34.
GAME NOTES: Since losing three straight against the likes of Houston Baptist, Cal State Bakersfield and Wichita State, the Titans have responded with a perfect slate and have begun the new calendar year on a positive note thanks to a 78-73 triumph over Pacific at home on Monday night. With the victory, Fullerton is 6-1 in its own building and is off to its best start under head coach Bob Burton, who guided the team to a 10-3 mark in 2006-07 before closing 20-10.
As for the Gauchos, they too were in action earlier this week and managed to work their way back into the win column with a 58-57 decision against Cal Poly on the road to close out a five-game trip that saw the squad begin with a 65-61 win over San Diego but then slip in three straight.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Gauchos lead by a count of 38-34 after winning four of the last five meetings.
Kwame Vaughn scored a game-high 21 points, leading all five starters in double figures, as Fullerton registered the five-point win over the Pacific Tigers in Big West Conference action at Titan Gym three nights ago. D.J. Seeley responded with 20 points in order to offset six turnovers, while Orane Chin tacked on 13 points for the Titans. Omondi Amoke recorded a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, followed by Isiah Umipig with 10 points and four assists. Seeley, a 41.3 percent shooter behind the three-point line, is tops on the scoring list for the Titans with his 15.7 ppg, although Vaughn is closing fast with 15.4 ppg as he makes good on 50.4 percent of his field goal chances. Umipig checks in with 13.4 ppg, Amoke 12.8 ppg and 8.6 rpg and Chin another 10.0 ppg to go along with 5.8 rpg for a program that is generating a hefty 80.1 ppg so far this season.
Orlando Johnson's three-pointer from the corner with 5.1 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as the Gauchos captured the thrilling one-point win over the Cal Poly Mustangs in Big West Conference play at Mott Gym earlier this week. Johnson finished the night with 12 points. shooting just 4-of-14 from the floor for the Gauchos. Alan Williams had a huge game off the bench for the visitors as he recorded a double-double consisting of 13 points and 10 rebounds, while James Nunnally tacked on 12 points in the triumph. The Gauchos reaped the benefits of Cal Poly shooting only 13-of-24 at the free-throw line in the close contest. One of the top scorers in the nation, Johnson is cranking out 20.2 ppg this year as he shoots a respectable 44.6 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent behind the three-point line, although his mere 59.7 percent effort at the free-throw line could certainly stand some extra work at practice. Nunnally accounts for another 16.4 ppg which means the dynamic duo is combining for nearly half the unit's 74.5 ppg this year.
Unless the Gauchos get some help from players other than Johnson and Nunnally, the Fullerton defense will be able to focus its efforts on the pair that count the most and that should be enough to get the visitors over the hump.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cal State Fullerton 74, UC Santa Barbara 66