Being left out in the cold is no fun. Just ask the UCSB men’s basketball team.
The Gauchos found themselves shivering outside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum after an agonizing defeat in Logan, Utah. Temperatures after the Utah State game plunged well below zero, which could not make a 72-64 loss any easier to bear.
UCSB stifled Aggie transfer and junior forward Desmond Penigar in the first half after Penigar bombarded Santa Barbara in the first meeting at the Thunderdome on Jan. 5. A frigid two points on 1-7 shooting enabled the Gauchos to carry a 31-30 into intermission.
Penigar then gave UCSB the cold shoulder with a snow-like flurry of 16 second-half points, including seven free throws and four field goals, which killed any shred of contentment in shutting the Big West’s leading scorer down in the first 20 minutes. Senior Aggie Tony Brown scorched Santa Barbara by tying his career high of 27 points.
Fifty-four percent second-half shooting enabled USU to defeat Santa Barbara for the sixth consecutive time.
“This was a disheartening loss – it’s not a good situation,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said.
One disheartening sign of the Gauchos (12-7, 6-4 in the Big West) occurred just before halftime. For the second time in two games, junior point guard B.J. Ward missed an uncontested layup. Ward’s shocking miss ended action in the first half. The helmsman also missed a layup in the middle of a home loss to Irvine on Jan. 24.
The Aggies turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 47-39 lead after a 7-0 run capped by point guard Ronnie Ross’s layup with 10:41 to go. UCSB junior forward Mark Hull attempted to pull his team closer with a strike from three-point country.
USU (15-4, 7-3) built its lead to 10 on a Brown free throw with 7:36 to go, and it appeared that the Aggies would run away with an easy game. Yet the Gauchos refused to lay down and die in the cold.
Hull drilled another trey and sophomore guard Branduinn Fullove hit a pair of shots from the charity stripe to inch closer with 3:51 remaining, 61-56. That was as close to the Aggies the Gauchos would come.
17 turnovers and arguably the worst game of Fullove’s career hindered Santa Barbara, even though the team out-rebounded Utah State 36-31, a token victory at the end of the night.
Fullove hit only 3-8 shots with no threes while coughing up the ball six times, several of which occurred during vital sequences in the game, including two consecutive possessions where USU built a ten- point lead. His backcourt mates, Ward and sophomore point guard Jacoby Atako, also had trouble on the perimeter, losing the ball a combined six times.
Hull completed a solid game with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and only one turnover in 34 minutes of action. Senior center Adama Ndiaye completed another fine game with 14 points and six rebounds. Utah State limited Ndiaye’s touches, holding the Senegal native to nine shots. Ndiaye, who connected on both of his free throws attempts, has made 20 straight from the line and improved his average to 75 percent on the year, a vast improvement over the course of the season.
Atako finished with 11 points, highlighted by 3-4 treys.