If the Gauchos had a deep bench, it would have been emptied in Thursday night’s 76-56 romp over coastal rival Cal Poly at the Thunderdome.
After playing two games with just seven players, help came in the form of junior forward Cameron Goettsche. Goettsche endured 21 minutes on a bum groin and sparked the Gauchos with a few crowd-pleasing dunks and blocked shots, not to mention eight rebounds.
“I thought he moved pretty well and played well, but he looked kind of rusty,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “Now I’m anxious to see how he feels tomorrow – that’s the key.”
An unexpected suspect also helped instigate the Gaucho blowout. Walk-on freshman Derek Rasp led all scorers with 14 points on 4-5 shooting from three-point land. The Camarillo native, who did not even play in the Gauchos’ first exhibition game, also pulled down six rebounds in just his third start in a UCSB uniform.
“Coach [Williams] has been getting me involved in the offense, coming off staggered screens, doubled screens, that kind of thing, and he’s encouraging me to shoot the ball and definitely making me feel comfortable,” Rasp said.
Rasp and Goettsche keyed the Gaucho first-half scoring spree. Rasp accounted for six of the first 12 Gaucho points – both threes – and gave Santa Barbara a comfortable 12-point lead going into halftime with a three from the corner at the buzzer.
Goettsche’s performance was nothing short of inspirational. With Santa Barbara leading 18-12 in the early goings, Goettsche converted freshman guard Alex Harris’ alley-oop pass on a two-one fast break. Just minutes later, Goettsche took his defender baseline and soared for another rim-jolter.
“It’s a lot more comforting when you’ve got another big man coming off the bench,” sophomore forward Glenn Turner said. “It’s a lot easier when you’ve got a guy who’s 6’8″ coming off the bench rather than guys who are 6’5” and 6’4″.
Turner, who had been working overtime as the lone Gaucho big man in the last two games, had a breakout game himself, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven boards en route. Turner credited the outburst to Williams’ challenging words before the game.
“Whenever you talk about pride, it’s a gut check,” Turner said. “When Coach [Williams] brought that up, it made everybody look inside and show everyone what we’re about.”
Senior guard Chrismen Oliver and Harris were the other Gaucho players in double-digits. Williams switched the two at times, putting Harris at the point and Oliver at the two-guard slot, and it paid dividends for Santa Barbara. The two combined for 23 points and nine assists.
“My teammates created for me and I think I created for them as well,” Harris said. “With [Oliver] at the wing, he doesn’t have to worry about setting up the plays. He can really focus on getting to the basket and getting others involved and getting more touches for the big guys.”
After halftime, UCSB quickly turned its 12-point lead into a 23-point lead, going on a 10-1 run highlighted by a Harris floater in the lane off the glass and junior Josh Davis’ converted drive despite the foul. Davis was instrumental in the Gaucho defense that limited Cal Poly to just 56 points and forced 15 turnovers, four of which were steals by Davis.
“I think the difference in the game was [that] defensively, we created a lot of steals, getting 10 steals in the game,” Williams said. “That gave us great opportunities in transition and we made the most out of those.”
Most importantly for UCSB, the win improves its conference record to an even .500 mark and allows it to remain a top-six team in conference.
“If you want to have a good season, you have to win a majority of your games at home,” Williams said. “That’s why I thought this was a must-win situation tonight.”
UCSB returns to action this Saturday when they host UC Davis in a nonconference matchup. The game will also be a quasi-reunion for Williams, who coached at Davis before coming to Santa Barbara. Davis is in their first year in Division I and will join the Big West next year, but the game will not count on UCSB’s conference record this year.