LONG BEACH — UCSB has no time to dwell on the end of its six-game winning streak in men’s basketball.
The Gauchos, who are coming off an 81-60 shellacking at Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, will try to avoid their first two-game losing streak of the season when they visit Long Beach State’s Pyramid tonight for a 7 o’clock game.
“We have a quick turnaround,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “We’ve got to move on.”
The game will be televised live on ESPN3, with former Gaucho coach Bob Williams doing the color analysis.
The Gauchos (14-4, 3-1 Big West Conference) surrendered first place in the league race to UC Irvine (16-5, 4-1) with Thursday’s loss. Long Beach (8-12, 2-2) is one of four teams lingering just behind the conference leaders with two defeats.
“Anybody can beat anybody,” Pasternack said. “Northridge beat Long Beach by 17 …. Long Beach went to Irvine and beat them. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night.”
The 49ers have been missing their top post player, Temidayo Yussuf, for the last five games because of a deep bone bruise. The powerful 6-foot-7 and 265-pound senior (12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds per game) was dressed for Long Beach’s Northridge game on Wednesday but did not play, and his status is listed as “day-to-day” by the 49ers.
UCSB junior guard Max Heidegger returned a month ago from his own spate of injuries which included concussion-related symptoms that left him bed-ridden for many weeks. He has yet to regain his first-team, All-Big West form from last year, however, having made just 25 percent of his shots (13-for-52) and 14.3 percent of this three-pointers (5-for-35) in seven games.
“He’s a good shooter, I see it every day,” Pasternack said. “It’s kind of like Ar’Mond Davis, who didn’t play for a year and was shooting 29 percent, and then he started making some.
“It’s just part of the process of coming back. He might not get back until March — he might not get back to who he was last year at all this year. You miss three months where you don’t run, you don’t lift a weight … It just takes time.”
Davis, a graduate transfer from Alabama, leads the Gauchos with a 14.1-point average, followed by sophomore guards Devearl Ramsey (12.3) and JaQuori McLaughlin (11.1), and 6-9 freshman Amadou Sow (10.2).
Heidegger has handled the ball well, with 21 assists and just five turnovers this season. Sharing the ball, however, was an issue in the Fullerton game for the entire Gaucho team, Pasternack said.
“When you have just nine assists, that’s not enough for our team,” he said. “That’s what we had at Omaha (an 85-74 defeat). That’s what we had at North Dakota State (an 82-63 defeat). We just couldn’t get into a rhythm.”
UCSB is just 3-4 in true road games, although it went 2-0 on a neutral court at a tournament in Boise, Idaho.
Long Beach is 6-3 at home, although it handed Irvine it’s only Big West defeat last week at the Anteaters’ Bren Center.
The 49ers have a dynamic point guard in Deishuan Booker, a 6-3 guard who averages 17.3 points and 4.6 assists while shooting 40 percent from the three-point line. He’s gotten hot in Big West play with a 28.3-point average in four games.
Booker is especially adept at drawing contact on his drives, ranking second in the nation with 128 free-throw makes. But he is also mistake-prone, having committed an average of 4.2 turnovers per game this season.
Bryan Alberts, a 6-5 guard who transferred from Gonzaga two years ago, is averaging 10.9 points with a team-best 46 three-pointers (38.3 percent).
In Yussuf’s absence, the 49ers have been counting on the post play of 6-7 K.J. Byers, who is coming off a career-high 19-point performance at Northridge, and 6-8 Mason Riggins, who leads the 49ers with a field-goal percentage of .614. Both are seniors, as are Booker, Alberts, and Yussuf.
“Long Beach State, I think they have the most talent in this league,” Pasternack said. “We’ll get back to the drawing board and see what we can do.”