No bench = no problem.
Santa Barbara’s bench might have looked like the waiting room in a doctor’s office, but that didn’t stop the Gauchos from trouncing crosstown rival Westmont 78-60 in an exhibition game Friday night. After the game, both coaches downplayed the significance of the injuries.
“That’s really overrated in a game like this,” Westmont Head Coach John Moore said. “Basketball is played with five players. Every one of those guys wanted to play the whole game.”
The injury-ridden Gauchos dressed only eight players and looked shaky on the offensive early. They blew the game open when junior guard Michael Chambers entered off the bench and dazzled the Gaucho Locos with a shooting clinic. Chambers exploited Westmont’s switch from man defense to a 2-3 zone, which gave him more open looks – and he took advantage of them. He sparked a 6-0 run with consecutive three-pointers after entering the game.
“I was a little nervous not having played for a year,” Chambers said, referring to sitting out last year after transferring from USF. “After I played a couple minutes and hit a shot, it calmed me down.”
Chambers finished 3-4 from behind the arc in the first half and 5-8 for the game.
“I’m not sure that zone was very effective,” Moore said. “I hope he shoots 60 percent all year. It will make us look like we did better defensively.”
UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams originally tried to recruit Chambers out of high school, but Chambers elected to attend the University of San Francisco because it is closer to his hometown, Vacaville. He chose to transfer to UCSB and try out because he never really found his comfort zone at USF. He credited his teammates for easing him through the transition of schools.
“It’s a whole lot better when you shoot five for eight from behind the line,” Williams said. “You get a lot of love when you shoot the ball like that.”
In 22 minutes Chambers finished with 19 points and no turnovers.
At the start of the second half the score was 31-23 in favor of the Gauchos and they came out firing on all cylinders. Junior guard Joe See opened the half with a trey, freshman guard Alex Harris followed suit with another three-pointer, and senior forward Casey Cook capped off the offensive onslaught with a thunderous dunk from the right baseline, leaving the score at 47-30.
“I thought we did a really good job of being unselfish and making the extra pass,” Williams said.
Three times in the second half the Warriors cut the Gaucho lead to 11 but came no closer. With the shot clock winding down, See hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to suck the life out of the Westmont faithful.
Junior guard Josh Davis missed a double-double by one rebound and one point, playing away from his natural guard position at the power forward position because of the depleted Gaucho frontline.
“I just wanted to be a presence out there and do whatever I can to help the team,” Davis said.
With Westmont trying valiantly to come back in the last minutes, they overcommitted their full-court press, and Chambers was able to send a full-court pass to Harris, who had a wide-open two-handed jam, which sent the Thunderdome into a frenzy and prompted Westmont to take out its starters.
“It felt good,” Harris said. “If no one noticed, I started smiling as soon as I caught the ball.”
The Gauchos will open their regular season next Friday with a non-league match at San Diego State against the Aztecs.