Western Illinois (5-6) vs. UC Santa Barbara (6-4)

The Sports NetworkDecember 21, 2013 

GAME NOTES: The first-ever meeting between the Western Illinois Leathernecks and the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara is slated to take place this evening at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on the final day of the Basketball Travelers Classic.

The Leathernecks, a team which is winless in six true road games so far this season, did finally pick up a win away from home last night as they took down Troy in this event by a score of 61-58. The victory snapped a minor two-game slide and drew the squad to within one game of .500.

As for the Gauchos, they began this tourney with a 57-54 win over the Trojans on Thursday night, but on Friday they saw a three-game win streak come to an end as they suffered a 77-71 overtime loss to host Utah State.

A pair of free throws by Jabari Sandifer with six seconds remaining broke the fourth tie of the game and helped lead the Western Illinois Leathernecks to a 61-58 win over the Troy Trojans last night. Sandifer, who added another free throw in the final moments in order to give the Leathernecks some separation, shot only 1-of-6 from the floor as he finished with five points off the bench. Adam Link led the way with 24 points and seven rebounds for WIU, followed by Garret Covington and Tate Stensgaard with 14 and 13 points, respectively.

Link, the leading scorer for the Leathernecks in five of their last six outings, accounts for 12.2 ppg at the moment and is also second on the glass with 5.6 rpg. Link is shooting an impressive 60.4 percent from the floor, but a disappointing 58.1 percent at the free-throw line where the team as a whole is just 60.3 percent through 11 games.

The Gauchos were led by Kyle Boswell who turned his 7-of-11 shooting behind the 3-point line into 27 points off the bench, as the team had a two-game win streak snapped. Alan Williams tallied 23 points on 10-of-24 shooting from the floor and added nine rebounds in the losing cause. UCSB made a total of just 11 field goals in the first half, but five of those came from 3-point range, allowing the Gauchos to stay within two points at the break, 31-29. Despite being beaten on the glass, 40-29, the Gauchos were able to keep the game close by turning the ball over just five times.

Even though the Gauchos are just two games over .500 at the moment, there is no denying that Williams is one of the better players in the nation that very few people know about. He not only leads the program in scoring with 23.2 ppg, stemming from his 55.9 percent shooting from the floor, he is also tops with 10.2 rpg and is coming up with almost three blocked shots per contest as well. Boswell and Michael Bryson check in with 12.4 and 11.9 ppg, respectively, to help ease the burden on Williams.

Western Illinois has been putting together solid defensive efforts this season, allowing only 56.2 ppg, but much of that has come against much weaker competition, so don't expect that to be the case again tonight.

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