Mark French
Paul Wellman

It was a rewarding week for Atonement on the big screen (Golden Globes) and in a San Luis Obispo gymnasium (Leather Globes). The latter awards went to the UCSB basketball teams for their hard-earned victories over the Cal Poly Mustangs.

Cal Poly’s student newspaper, the Mustang Daily, printed photos of rivalry-induced vandalism on the UCSB campus last week. “CAL POLY RULES” was written in green and gold outside the Thunderdome. The graffiti was water soluble, the paper reported, and later had been washed off. But the message was clear: Mustang fans were gloating because their men’s basketball team had beaten UCSB twice last year, and their women had also upset the Gauchos at the Thunderdome.

Before a capacity crowd at Mott Gymnasium, known as the Asylum, the Gaucho men overruled Cal Poly by a score of 75-60 last Saturday night. Alex Harris scored 31 points, leading a barrage of three-point baskets (10-20) by the Gauchos, who clamped down on Poly’s perimeter shooters (2-19). It was a huge win for UCSB, pushing its Big West record above .500 (3-2) going into a homestand against UC Davis (tonight, January 24) and Pacific (Saturday night).

UCSB’s women also mastered the Mustangs, 75-58, earlier in the evening. More important than the victory-their sixth in a row-was the way it was achieved. Coach Mark French had surprised the Gauchos at the beginning of the week by taking away their practice gear and locking them out of their locker room. They held their Monday practice outdoors on a blacktop court.

French was displeased with the women’s lackluster effort in their previous games, a one-point overtime victory over Cal State Fullerton and an eight-point win over UC Irvine, a team Cal Poly beat by 37. The coach did not deem the Gauchos worthy of wearing their practice shirts, emblazoned with the slogan, “Habits of Excellence.”

“There’s a whole generation of women who never had the privilege of being a college athlete,” French explained. “I’m trying to put them in touch with that.”

The players spent the week lugging their gear around campus. “I feel like a dork,” said sophomore Jordan Franey, who had her basketball shoes tied around her neck.

“Coach is showing his old-school side,” junior guard Lauren Pederson said after she practiced in baggy shorts that had belonged to her father. “Coach French fits into that category of philosophical coaches like Coach (John) Wooden. I like coaches who preach about Aristotle’s philosophy [‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit’].”

Sha’Rae Gibbons, another junior guard, pointed out that “if the coach didn’t care, he wouldn’t have gone to this trouble.” Senior Jessica Wilson said her award as Big West Player of the Week mattered little to her. “I’m not happy,” she said. “We’ve got to get it together and get back into our locker room.”

French presented a simple script for his team’s atonement. “They can atone by playing harder,” he said.

Wilson played like mad in the Asylum on Saturday, pushing the Gauchos’ attack with six assists while coming up with rebounds, steals, and deflections. Four UCSB players scored in double figures, led by freshman forward Ashlee Brown with 15 points. She went 6-6 from the floor.

“That was a little more like it,” French said. “These games [at Cal Poly] have been scary, scary affairs, but tonight our women stayed tough and focused.”

As a result, French decreed that the Gaucho women would resume practicing in their proper gear. But with two road games coming up this week, he wasn’t ready to grant them full privileges. Their locker room door will remain closed until they put forth further good efforts. Their next home game, January 31, will be against their nemesis, UC Riverside. Any bad habits would blow up in their faces in that game.

This Week’s Big Games: January 24-31

Thursday, January 24

College basketball Pacific at UCSB men, 7 p.m.; UCSB women at UC Davis, 7 p.m.; Concordia at Westmont (women, 5:30 p.m.; men, 7:30 p.m.)

High school girls water polo Ventura at Santa Barbara, 3:15 p.m.; Buena at Dos Pueblos, 3:15 p.m.

High school soccer San Marcos at Dos Pueblos boys, 5 p.m.; Dos Pueblos at San Marcos girls, 5 p.m.

Friday, January 25

High school boys basketball Bishop Diego at Carpinteria, 7 p.m.; Ventura at Santa Barbara, 7:30 p.m.

College Baseball Bash at the Beach, Chabot at SBCC, Pershing Park, 2 p.m.

Saturday, January 26

College basketball UC Davis at UCSB men, 7 p.m.; UCSB women at Pacific, 4 p.m.; Moorpark at SBCC (women, 5:30 p.m.; men, 7:30 p.m.); Westmont at Hope International, Fullerton (women, 5:30 p.m.; men, 7:30 p.m.)

College Baseball Bash at the Beach, Antelope Valley at SBCC, 2 p.m.

Sunday, January 27

College Baseball Bash at the Beach, Victor Valley at SBCC, 10 a.m.; Pasadena at SBCC, 2 p.m.

Every Monday

Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, Harry’s Plaza Cafe, noon

Monday, January 28

High school boys basketball Oak Park at Bishop Diego, 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, January 29

College basketball Westmont at The Master’s, Santa Clarita (women, 5:30 p.m.; men, 7:30 p.m.)

High school girls basketball Dos Pueblos at San Marcos, 7:30 p.m.; Fillmore at Bishop Diego, 7 p.m.

High school soccer San Marcos boys at Santa Barbara, 7 p.m.; Santa Barbara girls at San Marcos, 5 p.m.

High school girls water polo San Marcos at Dos Pueblos, 4:15 p.m.

Wednesday, January 30

College basketball UCSB men at UC Riverside, 7 p.m.

High school boys basketball Dos Pueblos at San Marcos, 7:30 p.m.; Santa Paula at Bishop Diego, 7 p.m.

High school girls water polo San Marcos at Santa Barbara, 3:15 p.m.

Thursday, January 31

College basketball UC Riverside at UCSB women, 7 p.m.

High school girls basketball San Marcos at Santa Barbara, 7:30 p.m.; Oak Park at Bishop Diego, 7 p.m.

High school soccer Santa Barbara boys at Dos Pueblos, 5 p.m.; Dos Pueblos girls at Santa Barbara, 5 p.m.


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