The UCSB men’s basketball team learned a valuable lesson in the final game of its grueling four-game road trip.
The moral of Wednesday night’s game at Pepperdine was simple for the Gauchos: don’t handicap yourself by 25 points before you start playing respectable basketball.
The Gauchos lost their third straight game and their second in a row to a West Coast Conference team, but finished encouragingly by cutting their second-half 25-point deficit to five points with just over two minutes to play. However, they still lost 62-56 to a Pepperdine team that was coming off a 14-point upset of then-17th ranked Wisconsin.
“We know Pepperdine’s a good team, but I was disappointed with the lack of competitiveness from our guys tonight,” Head Coach Bob Williams told 990 KTMS after the game. “Right now we’re questioning our character.”
The game seemed to be out of reach when Pepperdine guard Alex Acker hit a three with 15:21 left in the second half to make the score 46-21, but if nothing else, the Gauchos had time on their side.
On the next possession, senior guard Chrismen Oliver used a high screen to get to the bucket for a layup that ended Pepperdine’s first half 18-0 run. Oliver’s bucket sparked a 15-2 Gaucho spurt that brought them within fighting distance.
At the 2:43 mark, junior guard Josh Davis sunk a three from the top of the key to bring the Gauchos to within five points. With the momentum on their side, the Gauchos seemed poised to pull off a monumental come-from-behind win, but Pepperdine center Jesse Pinegar put an end to such speculation with a put-back off the Waves 13th offensive rebound of the night.
Using a zone defense, the Gauchos not only struggled to rebound consistently on the defensive end, but also took negligent care of the ball when they did manage to pull down a board. The Gauchos committed 17 turnovers on the night in the face of the athletically superior Waves.
“It wasn’t really our defense that killed us, it was our offense that did us in in the first half,” Williams said.
The game was still in limbo after junior guard Joe See’s first three-pointer of the season at the one-minute mark to bring the Gauchos within five, but that would be as close as the Gauchos would come.
Oliver led the way for the Gauchos in the scoring department with 14 points off the bench. The Gaucho guards couldn’t match the Waves’ guards, who torched the Gauchos from behind the 3-point arc. Pepperdine swingman Acker went for 16 points on 4-10 shooting from the land of plenty.
“He just jumps over you and shoots it,” Williams said. “[Freshman guard] Alex [Harris] isn’t ready for a guy like Acker. Acker is Harris three years from now.”
Over Thanksgiving break, the Gauchos fell to another WCC team at the University of San Francisco, 72-56. The game was reminiscent of Wednesday’s loss in that the Gauchos out themselves in a position where they had to come from behind to erase a large deficit in hopes of earning a win.
Davis scored 20 points in that contest, but even with the return of injured junior forward Cameron Goettsche, the Gauchos still couldn’t get a double-digit scoring performance from anyone on the front line.
Santa Barbara returns to action this Saturday for their second game of the season with San Diego State and their official home-opener. The game has been changed from its originally scheduled 7 p.m. start to a 3 p.m. tip-off to accommodate the men’s soccer Elite Eight NCAA Tournament match Saturday night.