UCSB will look to play a different tune tonight when it rings in the New Year in basketball.
The Gaucho men (4-3), who opened Big West Conference play last week with back-to-back defeats at UC Irvine, will return to the Thunderdome for their first home game since Dec. 7 when they face Cal State Fullerton (1-0) at 5 p.m.
The winless UCSB women (0-6), meanwhile, will play at Fullerton (0-3) at 5 p.m. Both the men and women will play the Titans again at the same time and place on Saturday.
Spectators are not allowed at any Big West contest because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Coach Joe Pasternack said he’s been preparing the Gaucho men no differently than last week.
“If you get caught up and focused on the results and not the process, you have no chance of improving your team to get better,” he said. “Whether we’d beaten Irvine or lost to Irvine, we would’ve done the same thing.”
The Gauchos’ video session on Wednesday did focus on the last seven minutes of Sunday’s 73-69 defeat. The Anteaters made seven of 10 shots including 3-of-4 from three-point range, plus seven free throws, to turn a nine-point deficit into a 73-69 victory.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t follow our defensive rules and made a lot of mistakes,” Pasternack said. “Maybe it had to do with playing them so early. I think we started conference (play) earlier than ever before, and it sure showed with the mistakes that we made.”
The Gauchos will be playing a team that has barely gotten started with its season. The Titans have played only one game — a 94-70 rout of NAIA school San Diego Christian — while having six games canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That included last week’s Big West-opening series against Cal State Northridge.
“Their one game really doesn’t tell you a lot — just like when we played Bethesda and Saint Katherine,” Pasternack said. “But they are very similar to their previous teams. They have extremely talented offensive players who can score.
“Wayne Arnold hit five threes (in six attempts against San Diego Christian). They also have a transfer, Tray Maddox (a 6-foot-6 junior), who was a great player for Oakland University. He’s a big, strong guard who can really play.”
Arnold led Fullerton in the San Diego Christian game with 19 points. Fellow guards Jalen Harris and Tory San Antonio added 13 apiece. Vincent Lee, a 6-8 and 230-pound forward, contributed 12 points and six rebounds.
The Titans made 11-of-25 attempts from three-point range in their lone outing.
“This will be a lot different than our last game,” Pasternack said. “They have some really athletic, scoring guards which are more similar to Pepperdine’s type of players.
“It’s really hard to prepare for them since they’ve only played one game. We can’t get a great feel for what they’re going to do. It’s going to come down to us sticking to our rules and what we do. That’s the biggest issue.”
The Gauchos are led in scoring by 6-4 senior JaQuori McLaughlin, who ranks fourth in the Big West with a 17.2-point average and second in assists at 5.2 per game. Fellow guard Ajare Sanni is also among the league scoring leaders at 13.9 points and is making 47.1% of his three-pointers (16-for-34).
The scoring average of Amadou Sow, UCSB’s two-time All-Big West forward, has sunk to 10.2 points on 41.8% shooting. He was held to just four points in Sunday’s game at Irvine and has made just 25.7% of his shots (9-for-35) in the last four games.
“I think Amadou has gotten some good shots and missed them, but he had a great practice yesterday,” Pasternack said. “I think Amadou is going to come back into his own and do what he normally does.
“He just has to focus on rebounding. When he’s done that, he’s been really good.”
Four Big West games were canceled last week by COVID, leaving the UCSB-Irvine series as the only league competition. Three games have been canceled this week. The Cal State Bakersfield at Long Beach State games will be this week’s only other league contests.
“It’s a whole mess this year,” Pasternack said. “We’re living day-by-day. All our tests came back negative today, but there’s no predicting the future.
“We can’t be consumed with the results. We just have to be consumed with the process, day-by-day.”