UCSB’s historic run in men’s basketball will continue without fans throughout the Big West Conference Tournament.’
League commissioner Dan Butterly announced on Monday that spectators, including family and guests of team personnel, will not be allowed to attend the March 9-13 event at Las Vegas’ Michelob ULTRA Arena inside Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort.
“This decision was made in the interest of protecting our teams in their pursuit of the NCAA Tournament and honoring the sacrifices they’ve made to get to this point,” Butterly said. “Our families and fans are an important part of what makes Big West basketball so special. But, after much deliberation, there was unanimous support for this course of action.
“We encourage everyone with a rooting interest in the Big West to download the digital game program and follow the action on the ESPN networks.”
Fifteen games will be streamed on ESPN3. The men’s semifinals and championship game will be aired on ESPNU and ESPN2, respectively.
The Gauchos (16-3, 10-2 Big West) have won a school-record 12 consecutive games to lead defending champion UC Irvine (12-8, 8-4)) and UC Riverside (10-6, 5-3) in the conference standings. UCSB could clinch the regular-season title by sweeping this weekend’s double-header at Riverside, with games Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m.
“When we began the season, the Big West Board of Directors were united in the view that mitigating risk and protecting the welfare of our student-athletes and coaches were paramount,” said Howard Gillman, the chancellor at UC Irvine and chair of the Big West Board of Directors. “In an environment with 19 teams in action, where one positive test can potentially eliminate several teams and end their dream of competing for a championship, the reluctant decision to play without fans was necessary to maintain the focus on health and safety.”
Big West honors O’Connor
UCSB senior shortstop McClain O’Connor was named as the Big West Conference Player of the Week for baseball after leading the eighth-ranked Gauchos to a pair of victories in a three-game series against Santa Clara.
O’Connor drove in seven runs on the weekend, blasting a double in the opener, a triple in the second game and a home run in the series finale. He batted .444 for the weekend (4-for-9) with a slugging percentage of 1.222.
UCSB will return to action this weekend with a four-game series against Pepperdine, playing single games in Malibu on Friday and Sunday, sandwiching a noon doubleheader at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium on Saturday. Spectators won’t be allowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gaucho upsets Cal star
UCSB sophomore Shakhnoza Khatamova upset No. 26 Valentina Ivanov for the Gauchos’ lone point in a 6-1 defeat at Cal on Sunday.
Khatamova won the split-set match, 7-5, 3-6, 1-0 (7).
She also helped UCSB win its season opener at UC Davis on Saturday, defeating Zell, Michelle at No. 3 singles, 6-0, 6-1.
Although the Aggies won the doubles point, the Gauchos got singles wins from Khatamova as well as from No. 1 player Elizaveta Volodko, No. 2 Camille Kiss, and No. 5 Balbe Gonzalez.
UCSB opens with three losses
UCSB fell to 0-3 on the season after losing to the host Bulldogs on Sunday at their Kickoff Classic.
The Gauchos also lost a pair of 6-5 games to the University of Pacific.
Outfielder Ally Nodohara led UCSB on the weekend by batting .455 (5-for-11) while Naya Pola hit .400 (4-for-10). Madelyn McNally blasted a double and a triple while batting .364 (4-for-11).
The Gauchos batted .304 as a team but their pitching staff gave up 19 earned runs in the three games.