If basketball was played in only one 20-minute period, the UCSB men’s basketball team would have given the Aggies a run for their money Thursday night at Logan, Utah.
The Gauchos fought for one solid half of basketball against Utah State before tumbling in an 83-50 Aggie avalanche at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.[DN1] The Aggies’ senior center Dimitri Jorssen led his team with a career-high 17 points and 10 rebounds, using an assortment of low post moves to make himself a dominant presence. Junior guard Tony Brown added 11 points for Utah State, drilling 3-6 three-pointers.
"They shot lights out on us," UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said on 1250 AM. "Jorssen had a career night. He got his confidence as his team did. … Our inability to respond when the game gets physical is the difference. We really seem to struggle in those games."
For the first time all season, Santa Barbara (13-13, 9-6 in the Big West) did not have one player score in double-figures. Junior power forward Mike Vukovich and freshman swingman Branduinn Fullove led UCSB with nine points apiece.
Freshman forward Casey Cook came off the bench to score eight points in 22 minutes of action. Sophomore forward Mark Hull scored eight points on 3-11, shooting from the field, but managed to connect on 2-3 treys. Sophomore point guard B.J. Ward was a bright spot for UCSB, going 4-4 from the free throw line, dishing three of the team’s nine assists and grabbing a team-high six boards.
The Gauchos kept the game interesting for the first half, and even found themselves leading at one point in the first 20 minutes of the contest. The Aggies (23-5, 12-3) jumped to a quick 7-0 start. USU went up 12-4 behind Jorssen’s six early points before UCSB started chipping away at the lead. Santa Barbara jumped ahead 25-23 on a trey from freshman guard Nick Jones with 3:26 in the opening half.
"I liked how we could control the game [at times in the first half]," Williams said.
UCSB forced the Aggies into 10 first-half turnovers, and the Gauchos only trailed 31-27 at intermission. That was when the Aggies knuckled down at the onset of the second half.
The Aggies went on a 12-0 burst, the second of their big runs; USU was ignited by guard Dion Bailey’s layup, who replaced senior forward Curtis Bobb within the first Aggie possession. Bailey’s shot had a domino effect, and Utah State outscored the Gauchos by an astounding 52-23 in the final 20 minutes of the blowout.
The Gauchos will battle Boise State on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the regular season finale.
"[BSU] is always very good," Williams said. "They’re awfully physical, and it will be their senior night. They come at you tenaciously. Defensively, we seem to do a better job against them. They’re not as good inside and they have fewer weapons offensively."
– Eliav Appelbaum