Senior guard Chrismen Oliver won’t ever get to play against Davis as an official member of the Big West, but he did his best to welcome the Aggies to their future conference Saturday night at the Thunderdome.
Oliver jolted Davis (6-9 overall), who will officially join the Big West in the 2007-08 season, with a career-high 19 points, 11 of which came in the second half.
“Chrismen was very, very good, especially in the second half. He absolutely was the difference for us in the second half, no doubt about it,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said.
Forward Ryan Moore, who burdened the Gauchos (6-8 overall, 3-3 in the Big West) all night, tacked 25 points and nine rebounds to lead Davis.
“He’s a good player; he’s tough, he’s competitive, he’s versatile,” Williams said. “He scores over you down low, he hits threes. He didn’t shoot the three tonight as well as he has in the past, but he’s a warrior – he just battles like their whole team does.”
The Gauchos found themselves down 10-2 in the early goings after Moore hit a pull-up jumper from the right side. UCSB would claw their way back though, going on a 22-4 run highlighted by two Josh Davis finishes in the lane and two Joe See three-pointers.
“We knew we had to guard the three-point line and we lost track of Joe See and Cameron [Goettsche] and Oliver a couple of times,” Davis Head Coach Gary Stewart said. “In a game that comes down to one or two possessions, those are critical.”
Junior forward Goettsche played with an injury for the second game in a row and keyed the Gaucho victory with 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks.
“There’s always something that hurts – you’ve got a bump or a bruise, you get used to it and you just have to play through it,” Goettsche said.
The presiding sentiment in the press conference after the game was that Davis is a team that should do very well after transitioning to Division I.
“I don’t think it’s going to take as long for Davis to adjust to the Big West as people think,” Williams said. “They are very physical, very scrappy and they play the game absolutely the right way, the way they need to play to be competitive at this level and they have tough kids.”
Not until the final 30 seconds did UCSB feel entirely comfortable with a lead. With 2:38 left in the second half, the Aggies forced a turnover and See quickly fouled guard Rommel Marentez who made both of his bonus free throws to bring the Aggies within three points, 56-53.
Oliver then took over in veteran fashion, sinking two free throws to increase the Gaucho lead to five, then hitting his signature left-handed floater in the lane a minute later to make the lead 62-55.
“From the start of the game, they were extending on me and putting a lot of pressure on me, so I was just trying to rip though,” Oliver said. “Going over the top was open, the middle was open and I had a quickness advantage over them, so I was just trying to make things happen.”