Wednesday, November 23, 2022

North Alabama at UCSB Game Preview, by gauchodan

Game 5
North Alabama at UCSB
Wednesday, November 23, 2022, 7:00 pm PST
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Quick Bite
The Gauchos (3-1) wrap up the Santa Barbara Beach Classic MTE with a de facto championship game against North Alabama (4-1) of the ASUN Conference.  The Lions are the first Gaucho opponent to have wins vs. Division I competition -- albeit at Alabama A&M (84-76) and yesterday vs. Hampton (75-74).  UNA has also lost at Mississippi Valley State (68-76), so this team hasn't exactly faced murderer's row.  In fact, the two teams are tied for dead last in the NCAA (360th, with two other teams) in the old RPI SOS metric.

UCSB-North Alabama History
The two squads have never played.

The Arena
In conjunction with the three games of the Santa Barbara Beach Classic, UC Santa Barbara is hosting a food drive in partnership with the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County.  Any fans that bring a canned food item will get free admission to the games. 

Head Coach
Tony Pujol
overall/North Alabama: 43-70 (.381) 
Pujol is in his 5th season at North Alabama, leading the team through a four-year transition to Division I.  Pujol has been an assistant at Appalachian State, VCU, Alabama and Wyoming.

Roster & Overview of the Lions
In lieu of a detailed breakdown of the Lions, I am once again stealing liberally from the UCSB website preview:

Daniel Ortiz is a dominant force from beyond the arc not just in the ASUN, but in the NCAA. The sophomore guard from Shreveport, Louisiana is seventh in the NCAA in three-pointers made per game with 4.00 while ranking 10th in the nation in three-point field goals made with 16. With these numbers, he is by far the team's biggest offensive threat with 72 points already this season.

The next two closest players to Ortiz in points are junior Damian Forrest and sophomore Will Soucie. These two each have 42 points so far this season. Forrest, a transfer from Cleveland State Community College, is second on the team in field goals made with 17 while Soucie, a native of New Jersey, only has 15 field goals. However, he makes those points up at the free throw line, where he has made 12 of 14.

Forrest is not only an offensive force for the Lions, but he is the biggest defensive contributor as well. The 6-10 forward currently leads the team in rebounds 27, grabbing nine on offense and 18 on defense.

Freshman Jacari Lane comes off the bench each game and makes his impact on the offense. The Huntsville, Alabama native leads the team in assists with 14. KJ Johnson, a junior transfer from Lipscomb, also makes his impact on the team as he has 12 assists.  Lane converted two three-point plays in the final 11 seconds of yesterday's game to rally UNA to the one-point win.

Matchup/keys to the game
North Alabama is 4th in the nation in field goal percentage at 54.1%, 3rd in effective field goal percentage at 62.0%, 13th in 3-point percentage at 42.4%, 11th in scoring offense at 90 points per game and 23rd in rebounding margin at +11.0 per game.  They also rank in the top half in nearly every defensive category.  The Lions will not be easy to tame.

UCSB trails North Alabama in nearly every statistical category.  UCSB will need to play optimally in order to neutralize UNA's proficiency on both sides of the ball.

In my opinion, UCSB has not been close to playing up to its potential.  Hampton hung around the other day and had the UCSB lead under double digits late in the game.  But I'm going to be optimistic that UCSB will click on all cylinders at some point.  No time is better than the present.  UCSB 77, North Alabama 56.

Official Site:
Hey Guys!:  Really?  Bake a pumpkin pie instead.
How to Watch: ... 87ea507452
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