The UCSB men’s basketball team, enjoying an impressive three-game unbeaten streak, was suddenly halted by a road bump in Stockton.
The University of the Pacific trounced the Gauchos 76-56 on Saturday afternoon at the Alex G. Spanos Center, dominating Santa Barbara from the outset. The Tigers (12-7, 7-1 in the Big West) maintained second place in the conference standings, forming a two-team tier that appears to be widening from the rest of the pack. The defeat sends the Gauchos to 10-6 overall and just 4-3 in the Big West.
After two impressive victories over Cal Poly and Idaho a week ago, Santa Barbara fell on hard times in the second half of its match against Northridge on Jan. 22. Despite beating CSUN in the Thunderdome, the Gauchos almost blew a seemingly insurmountable lead. Combine UCSB’s dreadful second-half torments with a disastrous game against Pacific, and the Gauchos have stumbled for nearly 60 straight minutes of basketball.
The Tigers’ terror began about five minutes into the first half. After taking a quick 5-3 lead to start the game, Pacific guard Miah Davis converted on two consecutive three-point daggers and senior forward Tom Cockle stabbed an additional long-range three to trigger a 16-8 UOP lead. Senior guard Branduinn Fullove’s single free throw, his only point of the entire contest, was the only score that interrupted the 16-1 run put on by Pacific. The Tigers broke down the UCSB defense, getting to the basket and kicking it out for an open perimeter shot. Santa Barbara ended the half on a spectacular three-point play by senior guard Nick Jones, who scored a career-high 14 points, but the Gauchos still trailed by 18 points at halftime, 38-20.
Santa Barbara tried to play catch-up in the second half, firing three-pointers in an attempt to get back into the game quickly. But the ice-cold shooting for the Gauchos continued as UCSB connected on just 36.5 percent of its shots from the field, including just 26.3 percent from three-point range. The Tigers capitalized on 31 points of Santa Barbara turnovers, stepping into the lane and snagging quick points in transition.
In an attempt to put a lid on the Gauchos’ vicious turnover tendency, UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams responded with reserve junior guard Chrisman Oliver, who played significant second-half minutes and contributed six points off 2-3 three-point shooting.
Junior forward Casey Cook, Santa Barbara’s leading scorer and rebounder, missed his fourth game in a row due to his strained right quadriceps. The Gauchos missed his inside presence, getting out-rebounded 27-31 as they found trouble getting inside position all afternoon.
The Gauchos will try to recover on Thursday night at the Thunderdome against a Riverside squad that took conference-leading Utah State to the final minutes in a 62-58 loss at UCR.