Thursday, November 17, 2022

UCSB vs Northern Arizona Game Preview, by gauchodan

Game 3
UCSB at Northern Arizona
Friday, November 18, 2021, 6:00 pm PST
Flagstaff, Ariz.

Quick Bite
After a week off, the Gauchos (2-0) begin a stretch of three games in six days with a game at one of Ben Howland's former employers, Northern Arizona (1-3).  That was about the last time the Lumberjacks were relevant.  Howland took the 1997-98 squad to the NCAA Tournament, and NAU returned two years later.  Northern Arizona did reach the championship game of the 2015 CIT.  Last season, NAU was 9-23 (5-15 in the Big Sky).  The Lumberjacks were picked to finish 7th/8th in the Big Sky in 2022-23 by the coaches/media.

UCSB-NAU History
UCSB All-time record vs. NAU:  2-1

  • Dec. 6, 1975: W 93-84 at Anteater Classic (one of the two seasons UCSB was an Independent)
  • Dec. 23, 1980: L 49-50 at UCSB
  • Dec. 30, 1981: W 78-70 (OT) at NAU

The Arena
Joseph C. Rolle Activity Center is used by the NAU men's and women's basketball teams as a practice facility and home arena for early-season games when the NAU football team is still competing and using the J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome.  It is primarily used for the volleyball team.  Capacity is 1,210.

Head Coach
Shane Burcar
overall/NAU: 32-56 (.364) 
Burcar was named the 26th head coach in program history on March 25, 2020 after serving as the interim coach of the Northern Arizona men's basketball program since June 2019. Burcar initially joined the NAU men's basketball coaching staff on April 10, 2018 as an assistant coach.  Burcar arrived in Flagstaff after a highly successful 12-year tenure as the head coach at Mesa High School in Mesa, Ariz.  During his time at Mesa High School, Burcar guided the Jackrabbits to a 277-110 record highlighted by winning the 2016 Arizona DI State Championship. His Mesa teams won seven regular season region championships, qualified for the state tournament on 10 occasions and made two Final Four appearances.

Roster & Overview of the Bulldogs
All five starters return for the Lumberjacks, but that's about it.  Ten newcomers, including seven true freshman, join the squad.  In fact, some of those former starters are taking a seat to incoming transfers.

Probable Starters
Jalen Cone, #15, 5'11", 175 lbs, Junior, Walkertown, N.C.
11.3 ppg,  5.5 rpg,  3.0 apg, 33.0 mpg
FG = .356,  3FG = .321,  FT = .667,  3FG/FG ratio = .622,  A/TO = 1.50
The junior enters the year following an All-Big Sky Third Team honor for his debut as a Lumberjack.  Averaging 18.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists last season, Cone ranked 32nd in the NCAA with 93 three-pointers made which tied for fifth for a single season in school history.  Finished 2021-22 third in points per game, fourth in three-point percentage, ninth in assists per game and ninth in field-goal percentage among the conference.  Scored 20 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out 4 assists at Michigan State on 8-of-19 shooting, including 4-of-10 from three.

Liam Lloyd, #21, 6'5", 190 lbs, Sophomore, Spokane, Wash.
12.3 ppg,  2.3 rpg,  1.5 apg, 30.5 mpg,  A/TO = 1.00
FG = .378,  3FG = .280,  FT = .667,  3FG/FG ratio = .556
Spent two seasons in Phoenix with Grand Canyon.  Last season, he played 172 minutes across 30 games.  Lloyd averaged 23 points, six assists and six rebounds a game as a senior at Gonzaga Prep School in Spokane.

Xavier Fuller, #02, 6'5", 180 lbs, Graduate, Mesa, Ariz.
5.3 ppg,  1.8 rpg,  0.5 apg, 22.0 mpg
FG = .286,  3FG = .000,  FT = .833,  3FG/FG ratio = .214,  A/TO = 0.50
spent his high school career at Mesa under Burcar where he was an All-6A Conference East Valley Region First Team honoree as a senior before heading to Scottsdale Community College.  An All-American during his sophomore season, Fuller averaged 22.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists before joining South Dakota for the past two years.

Carson Towt, #33, 6'7", 235 lbs, Redshirt Sophomore, Gilbert, Ariz.
8.8 ppg,  10.8 rpg,  3.3 apg, 27.5 mpg
FG = .471,  3FG = n/a,  FT = .500,  3FG/FG ratio = .000,  A/TO = 1.86
Currently 5th in the nation in offensive rebounds per game (5.5).  In 2021-22, he averaged 8.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and an impressive 3.7 assists while also starting all 32 games inside the paint.  Towt's rebounding average finished second in the Big Sky while his assists per game ranked seventh.

Nik Mains, #20, 6'8", 215 lbs, Redshirt Senior, Scottsdale, Ariz.
7.3 ppg,  4.0 rpg,  1.3 apg, 25.0 mpg
FG = .370,  3FG = .357,  FT = 1.000,  3FG/FG ratio = .519,  A/TO = 1.67
Hitting 40.1 percent from outside, Mains made 75 three-pointers in the 2021-22 season while starting all 32 games for the Lumberjacks.  Adding in a career high 5.1 rebounds per game with his 11.5 points, Mains made the leap to a more complete player last season while averaging the 10th-most minutes per game in the Big Sky.

Key Reserves
Ezekiel Richards, #23, 6'10", 240 lbs, Redshirt Junior, Oak Park, Calif.
4.3 ppg,  0.7 rpg,  0.0 apg, 9.7 mpg
FG = .800,  3FG = n/a,  FT = 1.000,  3FG/FG ratio = .000,  A/TO = 0.00 (4 turnovers)
appeared in 46 games across 3 season with Santa Clara.  Did not play vs. Benedictine at Mesa

Trent McLaughlin, #24, 6'6", 200 lbs, Sophomore, Chander, Ariz.
2.5 ppg,  1.5 rpg,  0.8 apg, 9.5 mpg
FG = .333,  3FG = .143,  FT = .750,  3FG/FG ratio = .778,  A/TO = infinity (3 assists)
Returns to his home state after 31 games for Central Connecticut, averaging 5.8 points and 2.7 rebounds in 21.1 minutes for the Blue Devils.

Oakland Fort, #04, 5'10", 170 lbs, Freshman, Phoenix, Ariz.
7.5 ppg,  1.3 rpg,  3.0 apg, 14.5 mpg
FG = .556,  3FG = .600,  FT = .667,  3FG/FG ratio = .556,  A/TO = 3.00
Sparkplug off the bench.

Jack Wistrcill, #10, 6'8", 225 lbs, Freshman, Salt Lake City, Utah
6.3 ppg,  4.5 rpg,  1.3 apg, 16.0 mpg
FG = .474,  3FG = .600,  FT = 1.000,  3FG/FG ratio = .263,  A/TO = 5.00
Came off the bench to score 14 points and pull down 6 rebounds at Utah Valley, shooting 5-of-9 from the field (2-of-3 from three).

Keith Haymon, #13, 6'7", 195 lbs, Redshirt Junior, Cypress, Texas
6.8 ppg,  1.5 rpg,  1.3 apg, 10.3 mpg
FG = .391,  3FG = .333,  FT = .600,  3FG/FG ratio = .783,  A/TO = 1.67
averaged 9.8 points per game while hitting 36.2 percent from outside himself. 

Diego Campisano, #12, 6'5", 210 lbs, Redshirt Freshman, San Diego, Calif.
3.3 ppg,  0.8 rpg,  0.0 apg, 4.5 mpg
FG = .714,  3FG = .500,  FT = .500,  3FG/FG ratio = .286,  A/TO = n/a

UCSB plays at its highest elevation of the season, as Flagstaff sits at about 7,200 feet.  It was 11 degrees this morning at sunrise, and Friday's daytime high is just 45.  The weather will be a good "warmup" for the Gauchos' trip to Pittsburgh after Thanksgiving.  Northern Arizona started the season with buy games at Michigan State and Arizona State and stayed within 20 points in both.  The Lumberjacks are 68th in the country in hitting 3-pointers (9.5 per game on 28.8 attempts).  The team as a whole has an excellent assist/turnover ratio at 1.54 (45th nationally).  All of their defensive numbers are lower than average.  UCSB shouldn't have too much trouble getting its shots.

You know what the attendance was in Santa Cruz?  121.  LOL.  But those 121 saw the Gauchos blossom into their potential.  Andre Kelly posted a double-double and is now 2nd nationally in rebounds per game (14.5) and defensive rebounds per game (10.0).  Ajay Mitchell's shot hasn't been falling but he's been concentrating on other things.  He is 15th in the nation in assists per game (7.0) and 25th in steals per game (3.0).  The return of JPL solidified the perimeter defense which had been a sieve vs. SF State.  UCSB is 36th in scoring defense (56.5 ppg).  Cole Anderson leads the team with 17 points per game, coming off the bench vs. Fresno State to hit three huge 3-pointers to fuel the victory.

This game will be my first game attended since the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament game vs. Creighton in Indianapolis.  NAU is approximately an hour away from my future home, and I am using the game as an excuse to pay a visit.

Keys to the game for the Gauchos
Prevent penetration.  Run your stuff.  Substitute freely to rest players in the high elevation.

Northern Arizona is going to be no pushover on its home court, but this is one of those games you don't expect to lose.  UCSB 76, Northern Arizona 62 

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