Thursday, December 30, 2021

UCSB vs UCSD Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

UCSB (5-4)** @ UC San Diego (4-5)**
Thursday, December 30, 2021, 7 pm
*It’s a Big West Game that doesn’t count in the conference standings
** D1 games only
Quick Bite:  With fingers crossed, Gauchos hit the road to close out the year in La Jolla taking on the surprising Tritons of UCSD.   Most other BW teams have had their games cancelled due to covid protocols so whether this games actually ends up being played is still a question.  Games vs. UCSD don’t count in the standings while the Tritons transition to D1 so true conference play starts for the Gauchos next week.
UCSB is 2-0 vs. the Tritons with both wins coming in Santa Barbara last season in back-to-backs, with winning margins of 17 and 31 points, respectively.  Amadou Sow dominated both games with 14 pts and 14 & 13 boards in each game.

The Arena
Rimac Arena opened in 1995 and has a capacity of 4,000 for basketball. 
It was updated in 2020 with a new video board, seats and a VIP sky box.  There are seats on three sides, behind one basket is a wall.   This game will be played without fans in the stands.  This year the Tritons are undefeated at home, last year the Tritons were 4-2 vs. D1 competition at home. 
Tritons Head Coach
Eric Olsen is in his 18th year with UCSD and his 9th as head coach.  He had tremendous success with the Tritons at the D2 level and had a respectable showing his first season.  UCSD is the only school he has coached at.
Tritons Overview
The Tritons are 4-5 in their second season of D1 basketball shocking the basketball world with a double-digit victory on the road at Cal in their season opener.   Aside from that impressive Q2 victory, their results are middling, with a very bad loss to #313 Southern Miss on a neutral court and another at #271 Denver.
The Tritons are the best three-point shooting team in the Big West, sinking 9 per game at an impressive 39% rate. Their leading scorer and rebounder is Forward Toni Rocak who often plays a 6th man role for the Tritons, coming off the bench all of last season and for several games this year.
They went a respectable 7-10 in their inaugural year, 4-8 in the Big West.  Their final year in D2 hoops may have been their best as they were 30-1 and the top seed in the tournament before the season was cancelled.
UCSD Probable Starters  
Guard Jace Roquemore #22 6’5”, 160 lb, RS Sophomore.   7.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, 31 mpg
Shoots 32% from deep.  Leads team in steals and tied for team lead in assists.
Guard Bryce Pope, #4  6’3” 185 lbs, RS Sophomore.  10.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 34% from deep, 26 mpg

Guard Jake Killingsworth, #14  6’5”, 205 lb, GT (Columbia)   5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.5 apg., 2.5 ATO, 30mpg
Tied for team lead in assists and is the team’s second leading 3pt shooter, 47%.
Forward Toni Rocak  #10    6’8”, 220 lb  Senior.  13.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 24 mpg.
Undoubtably the Triton’s top player, he is now coming off the bench and has been struggling a bit of late.  Leads team in scoring, rebounding & FT attempts, rarely shoots from deep.   Story on him from Midmajor Madness: ... sd-tritons

Forward Francis Nwaokorie #35  6’7”, 210 lb. Freshman   11.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 43% from deep.
Recent addition to the starting lineup, has had a tremendous first year, in the running for BW FOY award.  Second on the team in both scoring and FT attempts (75%)

Probable Key Reserves
 Forward Jake Kosakowski  #13  6’6”, 202 lb, RS Sophomore   7.5 ppg, 15 mpg
Leads team in three point makes, hitting them at an amazing 51%. 
Has started a couple games but limited minutes.
Guard Kaden Rasheed #23 6’1”, 185 lb, Senior   3.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.5 ATO, 48% from deep, 15 mpg
Excellent stats in limited minutes. 
Forward Matt Gray #11  6’8”, 225 lb. Junior, 3.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg.  9 mpg. 
Has started 5 games.  From Australia
Guard Vuk Vulikić, #20  6’5”, 205 lb, Sophomore.  3.3 ppg, 14 mpg
Transfer from UTEP where he played 10m per game.  From Serbia.
Guard Michael Pearson #2 5’9”, 160lb, Freshman 3.6 ppg, 8-14 from deep on the season, 8 mpg
From Modesto Christian HS, their school’s 2nd all time assists leader. 
Match-up & prediction:
In looking at the results for the Tritons, when they have a good night from beyond the arc, they win with the only exception to that coming in their loss to SDSU.  In their big win over Cal, they hit 10 3s on 45% from the field.  In their worst loss, to S. Miss, they still hit 7 threes but at just a 25% clip and, as is often the case when the team misses a lot, were outrebounded by a large margin. 
In their two D1 home games (George Washington & E. Michigan) the Tritons dominated, averaging 79 pts and a 15 point margin of victory while shooting a blistering 48% from deep.  One glaring exception to this trend was their 15pt victory at Sac St where they went just 2-11 beyond the arc but gained a huge advantage at the FT line in that game, 23 makes to just 9 for the Hornets. 
UCSD has two talented front court players in Rocak and Nwaokorie though they are not always on the court at the same time.  Given the damage the Tritons can do from outside, watch out especially for small forward Kosakowski), the Gaucho defense will need to extend beyond the arc, putting pressure on Norris & Sow to defend the paint without as much help from the guards.  They Gaucho front court has not had a great season defensively so keeping Rocak & Nwaokorie in check may be an issue.
In their last two losses, the Gauchos were torched from outside with St. Mary’s & UOP going a combined 17/32 (47%) while also getting destroyed by Tass of St. Mary’s on the inside.
Prior to season start, I saw this game as an easy win for the Gauchos.  That is definitely no longer the case and if the Tritons have one of their scorching nights beyond the arc, the Gauchos aren't as good as SDSU and probably won't overcome that.
 UCSD may be playing better basketball than the Gauchos right now but if UCSB has carried over any of their positive momentum on defense they earned against Florida A&M to this game, it should be enough for the more talented Gauchos to gain the edge.   
Official Site
Hey Guys!:  no message board
How to Watch: ESPN+
Fun facts about UCSD
The school was founded in 1960 with a focus on science and research that is true to this day.  Population of ~40,000 students, around 32k undergrads.  Many alums are pillars in the scientific community including Craig Ventner (human genome sequencing fame) but has some surprising alums in the Hollywood scene including Mike Judge (Beavis & Butthead) and Lilly from the ATT commercials.

No comments: