UC Santa Barbara made the transition from winning in front of 18,500 in Nevada Las Vegas' Thomas and Mack Center to playing Cal State Fullerton in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 3,309 in Titan Gym Saturday night with almost as much ease as you'd expect.
The Gauchos, off to the best start in school history, trailed only once, at 2-0, and beat the Titans, 67-55.
Santa Barbara (11-1 overall, 3-0 in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.) upset UNLV, 62-60, Thursday, becoming only the third team to beat the Runnin' Rebels in Thomas and Mack in the 52 games that have been played there.
This, of course, was not quite the same. Besides its lesser lore, Fullerton also has far less of a team. The Titans (4-9) are 0-4 in the PCAA.
"We had to get our heads back into Fullerton in practice," said Jerry Pimm, Santa Barbara coach. "It's a given--you have to be happy to play good after that kind of a game. And we had to stop two of the better players on the West Coast in Richard Morton and Henry Turner."
The Gauchos didn't keep Morton and Turner from scoring, but Fullerton has had so little offense from any other players that it didn't matter that Turner finished with 24 and Morton with 23.
Fullerton managed to keep it closer than would have seemed likely from the looks of things early on.
Santa Barbara pulled out to a 12-point lead with about eight minutes to play in the first half, and it seemed as if it might be the beginning of a blowout.
But with the Gauchos leading, 24-12, Morton broke free for a 20-foot jump shot, cutting the lead to nine. Santa Barbara turned the ball over, and Morton got open again off the same play--a low double-screen designed to allow him to get open for the three-pointer. This one was good, too, and the lead was 24-18.
Fullerton, got the ball back when center Vincent Blow intercepted a pass off the Titans' halfcourt trap. On the other end, Henry Turner's 18-foot jump shot made it 24-20.
But then the Titans allowed Eric McArthur to score inside off an offensive rebound, making the lead six.
Less than a minute later, McArthur blocked a Fullerton shot, starting a fast break that ended in a layup by Brian Johnson and an eight-point lead for the Gauchos.
At least part of Fullerton's success in that stretch was due to the foul trouble of Brian Shaw, the Gauchos' best defender, who began the game guarding Morton. But after picking up his second foul just three minutes into the game, that job fell more often to Carrick DeHart, and Morton had more success.
Had he had a better shooting night than 8-for-23, the Titans might have stayed closer. Morton did make 4 of 9 from three-point range. Turner broke out of a three-game slump, making 10 of 22.
Santa Barbara's 30-23 halftime lead was as large as 15 in the second half, and Fullerton never got closer than six, on the first basket of the second half.
The Titans had held out a bit of hope that Santa Barbara might be overconfident.
"We knew they had just beaten UNLV at the Thomas and Mack and were still celebrating the win. . . . We gave it our best shot," Turner said.
Now, it is his own team's confidence that concerns him more.
"We still are confident. . . . If you don't have confidence you have nothing."
DeHart, who scored 15 points, led five Santa Barbara players in double figures.
"Santa Barbara is really on a roll," said George McQuarn, Fullerton coach. "They have a lot different personality than we do right now. They are confident and feeling good about themselves."
Shaw scored only eight points and finished with four fouls, but it made little difference.
"When Shaw was out of the game, their other kids kept the game together," McQuarn said.
Pimm said the fairly easy win was as much as he would hope for after one as momentous as the victory over UNLV.
"I don't think you're going to play much better than we did tonight after something like that," he said.
The Gauchos' 3-0 start in the PCAA became their best since 1970-71, a year they went 20-6 overall.
"I had high expectations for this team quietly, within myself," Pimm said. "I thought they would be pretty good. We're coming along."