UCSB, fresh off its first basketball road victory of the year, will try to extend its overall winning streak to five games when it visits Texas Arlington today for a noon game.
The Gauchos (5-3) have been on the upswing, holding their last three opponents to just 41.3% shooting. Their three previous foes shot 53.7%. UCSB has also won the rebound battle over its last five opponents by a margin of 11.0 per game.
“Defensively, we’re getting better,” Gaucho coach Joe Pasternack said. “The season is a marathon. We just have to incrementally get better and better at the defensive end and the offense will take care of itself.
“Defense and rebounding travel.”
Texas Arlington (4-5) will be a major challenge in spite of its losing record. Three of its losses have been by seven points or less, including a 72-66 defeat at then-No. 8 Gonzaga. It lost three straight during a week-long road trip that took it to Oregon and Nevada as well as Gonzaga.
The Mavericks’ wins include an impressive 73-59 triumph over Tulsa.
“We’re playing four straight on the road,” Pasternack said after Tuesday’s win over Cal State Bakersfield, “and it’s going to get tougher.”
Arlington returns five of six starters including Brian Warren, a 5-foot-9 senior who averaged 15.4 points and 3.6 assists last year. David Azore, a 6-4 sophomore, is scoring at a 12.6-point clip this season while shooting 47.8% from three-point range. Jabari Narcis, a 6-9 and 240-pound senior, is also making half his threes while averaging 9.6 points and 7.0 rebounds.
UCSB is coming off its best three-point shooting night of the year, having made 8-of-18 attempts during Tuesday’s 64-60 win in Bakersfield. Matt Freeman, a 6-10 graduate transfer from Oklahoma, made 4-for-5 behind the arc and is now shooting 50% from three (17-34) for the season.
“Having such a great, face-up four man who shoots the ball as well as he does is a real weapon for us,” Pasternack said.
Freeman is averaging 11.4 points per game. Amadou Sow, a 6-9 sophomore, leads the Gauchos with averages of 15.0 points on 52.9% shooting and 8.6 rebounds. JaQuori McLaughlin is at 12.6 points and 4.3 assists.
But the Gauchos’ main focus these days is defense.
“We’ve worked on it in practice every day,” McLaughlin said. “Just staying together on defense, staying in the gaps, and helping each other in the helper.”