Utah State (2-0) at UC Santa Barbara (2-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 16, 10 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UC Santa Barbara Events Center (5,600) -- Santa Barbara, California. Television: None. Home Record: USU 2-0, UCSB 1-0. Away Record: USU 0-0, UCSB 1-0. Neutral Record: USU 0-0, UCSB 0-0. Conference Record: USU 0-0, UCSB 0-0. Series Record: Utah State leads, 39-24.
GAME NOTES: A pair of 2-0 squads attempt to continue their early-season success on Saturday night, as the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos host the Utah State Aggies at the UCSB Events Center.
Utah State, fresh off its 14th straight 20-win season, has started the 2013-14 campaign with back-to-back wins for the first time since 2008, claiming both matchups at home. After dismissing USC on opening night last Friday, 78-65, the Aggies made easy work of intrastate rival Southern Utah on Tuesday, 90-57.
UCSB's season has been equally impressive in the early going. The Gauchos downed Hawaii-Pacific in their opener at home, 76-50, then ventured to Las Vegas to capture an impressive 86-65 road triumph over UNLV. After a disappointing, injury-plagued 2012-13 campaign (11-20), the Gauchos hope for a return to the top of the Big West Conference standings this season.
Utah State has a 39-24 advantage in the all-time series with UCSB, but the Gauchos won the latest meeting, 72-64, in February of 2012.
The Aggies' outing earlier in the week was never in question, as they outshot Southern Utah from the field, 58.3 percent to 30.2 percent, and they had a busy night at the foul line (29-of-38) on their way to the 33-point victory. Jarred Shaw was surgical in the paint, making 7-of-9 shots from the field and 10-of-12 from the charity stripe for 24 points, while adding 10 points and two blocks for good measure. Spencer Butterfield tacked on 11 points, while TeNale Roland chipped in with 10 points and four assists. Utah State has shown very little rust through two games, as it is outscoring opponents by 23 points and has dominated the glass with a +10.5 rebounding margin. Shaw has been the top scoring option so far at 18.0 points per game, while Preston Medlin (11.5 ppg), who averaged 16.3 points per tilt a season ago, is off to a slow start at less than 39 percent field goal efficiency.
The Gauchos, who went a dismal 3-13 on the road last season, went into hostile territory at the Thomas & Mack Center and handled UNLV by shooting a red-hot 55.8 percent from the field, including 9-of-14 from 3-point range. Alan Williams set the tone in the frontcourt with 21 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Kyle Boswell (19 points) was feeling it from beyond the arc, going 5-of-7. Zalmico Harmon, Michael Bryson and Eric Childress each scored nine points in the balanced effort. Williams is one of the best players in the Big West, and has made the argument to support that claim quite easy by averaging 24.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. Boswell (14.5 ppg) has eight field goals this season, all from 3-point range, and he has nine assists against only one turnover. Bryson (11.0 ppg) rounds out the double-digit scorers for UCSB, which nets 81.0 points per game and boasts and outstanding +5.5 turnover margin.
In a compelling early-season matchup between two good teams expected to make noise in their respective conferences, figure the Gauchos to feed off the energy in the building to lift them to a 3-0 start.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UC Santa Barbara 78, Utah State 75
11/16 10:41:43 ET