SANTA BARBARA — Jerry Pimm, the UC Santa Barbara coach, spent the better part of this week extolling the virtues of Cal State Fullerton's defense to his team and the local media. He went so far as to call the Titan defense "the best in the conference."
Pimm's team and the 1,928 fans at the game got a first-hand look at the Titan defense Thursday night in the Events Center, and the Gauchos didn't score a field goal in the last 14 1/2 minutes of the game against it.
Ah, the difference the "D" makes.
This time, though, UCSB still managed to win rather easily, scoring a 52-39 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. victory by making 23 of 30 second-half free throws.
Aside from a shutout, the funny thing about a good defense is that it has to have a semblence of an offense to go with it. And these days, the Titans don't.
Fullerton (3-5 in PCAA play and 10-10 overall) had only three players score Thursday night. Forward Henry Turner had 17 points, forward Kerry Boagni had 13 and center Herman Webster had 9.
Guards Eugene Jackson and Alexander Hamilton, who are replacing the injured Kevin Henderson and Richard Morton, were a combined 0 for 6 from the field and each fouled out. Henderson and Morton have a combined scoring average of 34.
UCSB (3-5, 8-9) had 22 more free throws than Fullerton, but Titan Coach George McQuarn didn't think the officiating was a factor.
"They kicked our tails on the boards (UCSB outrebounded Fullerton, 32-16) and they played harder on the offensive end than we did," McQuarn said. "But the big difference is that we just couldn't score, and it certainly didn't have anything to do with what Santa Barbara did. They just sat there in a zone."
The Gauchos got most of their offensive production from the expected places--power forward and guard. Guard Conner Henry, who did not score in the first 11 minutes of the game, finished with 20 points, hitting 6 of 13 from the floor (including both of this three-point attempts) and all 6 of his free throw. Forward Scott Fisher scored 16, sinking 4 of 5 from the field and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line.
"We knew we had to stop Henry and Fisher, and we knew it would take a team effort to do it," Boagni said. "We didn't accomplish that and the result was a loss."
The loss of the Titans' top two scorers was never more evident than Thursday night, but Morton is expected to be back for Fullerton's next game, which is Thursday at New Mexico State. Henderson said he hopes to be ready by the Feb. 1 game at Cal State Long Beach.
"Sure, we've got people shooting who we don't want shooting, and we've made a lot of adjustments (because of the injuries), but I don't want to talk about that," McQuarn said. "What bothers me is that we weren't blocking out, we were watching loose balls, just standing around."
The Titans, who trailed, 24-19, at halftime, closed to within one and had a chance to take the lead two minutes into the second half. But instead of sticking with the deliberate offense that Fullerton has employed since losing its top guards, Hamilton drove to the basket, put up a four-foot bank shot that went about eight feet. The Gauchos regained the momentum, outscored the Titans, 10-3, in the next seven minutes and led by at least five points the rest of the way.
"We took it inside and made them foul us," Pimm said. "They sure don't let you have any easy ones. We only made two field goals in the second half, but if they don't foul us, we'd have had a few layups.
"I'm especially proud of the way we doubled up on the boards, of the concentration we showed underneath."