If you missed the second half of the UCSB men’s basketball game on Thursday night, you missed the CSUN team play.
The Santa Barbara Gauchos (10-5, 4-2) took on the Cal State Northridge Matadors (6-9, 2-5), in a game in which each team dominated one half. The Gauchos blew a 21-point first-half lead, but held on to beat the Matadors 59-47.
The first half started off great as the Gauchos felt good to be back at home. As the song “Sweet Home Alabama” played during warm-ups, Santa Barbara was feeling loose and looked ready to play. After starting the game on a 5-0 run, all by senior Branduinn Fullove’s five quick free throws, the Gauchos were trying to prove a point in the first half, and the point was sure made.
Santa Barbara attacked CSUN at all angles of the game. Using the post, passing the ball around the perimeter and playing like one cohesive unit, eight players scored at least one basket, showing great ball movement and lots of teamwork skills. Sophomore forward Cameron Goettsche, who ended with five points and four rebounds, contributed in many ways, playing in place of Casey Cook, who is still sidelined with a leg injury.
“I thought the bench was sensational in the first half; we played the best 10 minutes we have played all year,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We had a great run at all ends of the floor. We didn’t give up an easy shot, and we made a lot of great decisions with the ball and got a lot of good shots.”
The key play of the first-half Gauchos’ 29 to 4 run was after a timeout. Junior guard Joe See came off a screen looking to shoot, and hit sophomore Goettsche on a backdoor cut for a dunk. This led to five straight Santa Barbara baskets, each scored by five different players. The Gauchos won the first half, shooting 58 percent, outrebounding CSUN 16-6, and forcing 13 turnovers.
The first half was clearly won by UCSB, but when the second half arrived, there were a few things missing. Someone forgot to tell the Matadors that they were down 21 points. CSUN came out of the second half with no mercy, playing with heart and extreme intensity, and eventually cutting the lead from 24 to six.
“I am very proud of how these guys stepped up in the second half and played with a lot of heart, and just a great competitive spirit,” CSUN Head Coach Bobby Braswell said about the second-half effort. “My words to them at half time were, ‘all I want you to do is just to give the best effort that you can,’ and that’s all you can ask from your players.”
Northridge was led by junior guard Davin White’s 18 points, who almost led his team to a miracle comeback. The Gauchos accumulated 11 turnovers in the second half and almost gave away another game. Playing with no care of the first-half score, the Matadors played excellent defense, holding the Gauchos to one FG in almost 11 minutes, during their second-half run.
The drought was stopped when See, coming off a Goettsche screen, nailed a three-pointer at the top of the key, and brought life back into the Gauchos.
“We had great ball movement and Joe got open and got a shot. Joe has the green light anytime he’s open,” Williams said. “Joe can’t make all three-pointers, but he is good enough to!”
See felt confident about his shooting in tonight’s game, scoring 11 points and dishing out a season high six assists.
“It’s definitely easier when Coach gives me the green light, because all my misses are [Coach Williams’] misses, so technically I didn’t miss any shots tonight,” See said.
Despite the second half, the Gauchos finished the game on top to improve their Big West record to 4-2. Santa Barbara takes on University of Pacific on Saturday night, a team who they will be fighting with for a top spot in the Big West Tournament.