San Diego vs. UC Santa Barbara Preview


The San Diego Toreros are almost out of the woods finally as their very tough stretch of non-conference games is coming to a close. They do have one more hurdle however as they travel to face the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos on Thursday. On paper the matchup may seem pretty even, but the Toreros are dealing with a long stretch of hard-fought road games against good teams heading into this game. Fatigue could be an issue.

Also an issue is Alan Williams, one of the best mid-major players in the nation. Last year he was key to sparking a second-half comeback that led to a 72-61 victory for the Gauchos in a game against the Toreros in the Jenny Craig Pavilion. Williams is a double-double machine and the reigning Big West Player of the Year. Last season he averaged 21.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game, and this year he is doing more of the same with 18 points and 12.6 rebounds per game. He is very hard to stop, and he is one of the best individual players the Toreros will face all season.

For the third game in a row, the Toreros will be facing a deep and balanced roster that extends beyond Williams. Three other UCSB players are averaging double-digit scoring numbers, so between them and dominant inside presence of Williams, the Toreros will have a lot to handle. The Guachos might be a pedestrian 4-4, but it’s been against very strong competition. This team went 21-9 last year and was storming towards the NCAA Tournament before they were derailed in the Big West Tournament by upstart Cal Poly.

You may remember the Mustangs as making national news for winning the Big West Tournament and making the NCAA Tournament with a sub-.500 record. The Gauchos were one of the real contenders they knocked off in the process. The Gauchos were so fired up about the loss in fact they declined all postseason tournament invitations. They are out for redemption and look very hungry in the early going. They don’t have any huge wins, but they boast some very competitive losses to very good teams including Kansas and SMU. They have their sites set on domination of the Big West and getting the postseason appearance they missed out on last season.

San Diego Toreros (4-5) at UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (4-4)

When: Thursday, December 11th at 7:00 pm Pacific

Where: The Thunderdome in Santa Barbara, CA (Yes, it’s really called that)

Watch: Big West TV

Live Stats: USCB Gauchos website


San Diego

Johnny Dee

Chris Anderson

Brett Bailey

Thomas Jacobs

Jito Kok

UC Santa Barbara

Zalico Harmon

Michael Bryson

Dajuan Smith

Mitch Brewe

Alan Williams


As expected, the Toreros dipped under .500 last week with losses to elite teams in San Diego State and UCLA. That being said, they played very well and held their own in both games. They hung with the Aztecs, and they could have beaten UCLA with a better second half. Between those games and their games in the Wooden Legacy, this is quickly becoming a seasoned team. Visiting a quality mid-major on the road is tough, but it’s nothing compared to the stretch they just came from. Only having played so many games recently and not having had a home game in over two weeks could hinder them, but not enough that we are going to blame those for a loss if it happens.


December 8, 2012; Tempe, AZ, USA; Cal State Northridge Matadors center Brandon Perry (32) shoots over Arizona State Sun Devils forward/center Eric Jacobsen (3) in the first half at Wells Fargo. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO – BRANDON PERRY: A good big man is hard to find in college basketball, and the Toreros are hurting inside without Dennis Kramer. Jito Kok has done an admirable job of improve his offensive numbers and he’s still a blocking machine, but he just isn’t the major threat the Toreros need. Perry came into this season with the hopes that he would assume that role, but so far he hasn’t done much. That may change after his breakout game when he put up 16 points against UCLA.

The Toreros desperately need inside production being so guard-heavy, and his breakout couldn’t come at a better time. They need it now as they head into this game against Alan Williams, one of the best big men the Toreros will face. If Perry can match him inside with the scoring and rebounds, the Toreros will make this a very close game. They can still win with their outside shooting and will need it, but it would be nice to not have to let an opponent dominate inside and be trying to make up for it. Perry playing well will really even the playing field.

Nov 14, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; UC Santa Barbara Gauchos center Alan Williams (15) shoots a free throw during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas won 69 – 59. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

UC SANTA BARBARA – ALAN WILLIAMS: Even without the emergence of Perry, Williams is still the guy to watch for the Gauchos. He’s big, he’s strong, and he is every bit an elite big man that teams love to have. The Toreros will be focused heavily on stopping him, and Kok and Perry will be tasked with banging inside against him all night. This comes with good news and bad news.

The good news is that the Toreros can absolutely stop him. Last year they completely shut out Williams in the first half, and he only finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds. Good numbers, but far from the elite numbers he was averaging. If they can limit him in the same way once again, the Toreros have a great chance to win. If he is going off and putting up his usual numbers however, the Toreros cannot match him and will have a tough time. Perry, Kok and Thomas Jacobs even at their best won’t replicate his elite numbers, so slowing down Williams is priority number one.



So after all that talk about inside play and Williams, it’s weird that the first key is about outside shooting. But realistically, the game may come down to that. Williams will probably have a decent game, and the Toreros will be at least adequate inside. So whoever is hitting shots may end up having the advantage. Three of the best scorers for the Gauchos are guards, and they like to shoot the three pointer. Good perimeter defense that forces Williams to carry the team will go a long way.

If the Toreros can keep this a low scoring game and the Gauchos aren’t hitting shots, the Toreros will be in good shape even if Williams has a big game. Johny Dee will get his 15-25 points no problem, so if the USCB shooters are limited, San Diego will have the advantage on the outside and cancel out some of what Williams will do inside. That also takes pressure off Perry and Kok as they will only need to have average games instead of having pressure to completely dominate inside and shut down Williams. Shutting down Williams is unlikely anyway, so locking down the shooters is the ideal strategy.


Anderson has been pretty quiet in the last couple games, and it’s a concern after he was turning into a double-digit scorer to go along with his big assist numbers. Dee has been carrying the team too much, and Anderson needs to get back on track especially in this game. Dee will get his points, but Anderson has to be the next guy to step up. Perry, Kok, and Jacobs will be limited inside by Williams. Brett Bailey continues to not produce much, and Duda Sanadze is still limited by his plantar fasciitis and will not be able to do much even if he plays. And the freshmen are still growing, so it’s hard to expect this game against a good team to be the one where one of them finally break out.

That leaves Anderson as the guy help out Dee and put up some production. He will have opportunities, but his shots needs to be falling. Even more than the strong defense and limiting Williams, both Anderson and Dee need to be at their best in this one. Dee certainly will be, so a lot rides on what version of Anderson shows up. If it’s the dynamic scorer who will push for a double-double in points and assists the Toreros are in great shape. If it’s the struggling shooter who won’t crack 5 points, the road is much tougher knowing the rest of the roster will probably not be able to do enough to make up for that.


This is a tough matchup. On the road against a very good mid-major with an elite player after coming off a number of tough road games. But the Toreros should be confident and well-seasoned by now, and that attitude could go a long way. After hanging with San Diego State and UCLA on the road last week, this pales in comparison. And the Toreros will also have the added confidence of knowing they had the Gauchos on the ropes last season and should have gotten the win.

That confident is fueled even further knowing they shut down Williams in the first half of that game, arguably his worst half of basketball all of last season. Between their experience against elite teams and their strong showing against UCSB last year, the Toreros should have a good mental advantage. They can win this game, and this should go into it knowing full well that’s the case. If that leads to a little more intensity inside or a little more aggressiveness in their shot selection outside, it could be big in a close game. Confidence matters, and the Toreros should have it in this game.


The time is right for the Toreros to get their first signature win. They are seasoned, confident, and playing a team they can potentially match up well against. Williams should have near double-double numbers, but solid outside defense should have the Gauchos shooting poorly and keep it a close game. The Toreros will still probably have to rely too much on Dee, but they should get just enough from guys like Anderson, Perry, Kok, and Jacobs to squeeze out a win. It should be close all the way but instead of fading late like they have in their other big games, this feels like the time the Toreros finally put a complete game together against a good team and secure a nice win with non-conference nearing its conclusion.