The Gaucho Locos may have a knack for the derogatory, the ironic and the downright inappropriate, but it was evidenced in UCSB’s 65-52 circumstantial upset over Northridge (8-8 overall, 6-2 Big West) on Thursday night in the Thunderdome that they also possess a certain sensibility.
As the clock dwindled down to the final seconds, confirming the Gauchos’ third win in a row, the sea of yellow stated the obvious, but aptly summed up UCSB’s current disposition.
“Seven is enough!” they chanted, and truth be told, seven was plenty.
“We know even with seven players, it doesn’t really matter,” freshman guard Alex Harris said. “We know we can play with anybody out there.”
At the beginning of the second half, and with the Gauchos (7-8 overall, 4-3 Big West) leading 28-25, it appeared that Santa Barbara might be down to just six for the remainder of the game, as sophomore forward Glenn Turner layed underneath the rim, grabbing his ankle in pain. Turner returned, though — limp and all — to the Gaucho bench from the locker room at the 15:19 mark and subsequently returned to action with 13:51 left and the UCSB lead up to eight, 37-29.
“When [Turner] went down, we could have just said, ‘Aw man, another injury,’ but we stayed strong and played together, and Glenn coming back — just him playing hurt brought a lot of energy to us,” senior guard Chrismen Oliver said.
Oliver ignited UCSB, recording his second-straight career-high point total with 21 on the night, 16 coming in the second half.
“Chrismen’s been our anchor; he’s been everything for us,” Harris said.
Northridge, coming into the game second place in the Big West, appeared to be headed for its first win in the Thunderdome since 1981, coming out of the gates with an 8-0 lead. Steadily, though, Santa Barbara climbed back, taking its first lead of the game with just over a minute to play in the first half at 24-23.
“I think we settled down; I know a few of the shots I took at the beginning, I kind of rushed them,” Oliver said. “We started getting some inside looks and better movement.”
Head Coach Bob Williams was all smiles after watching his team force 21 turnovers, while giving up only 15 turnovers to the Big West’s top turnover margin team.
“It’s the best performance of the year so far for us. I thought we showed the most character — we showed the most pride,” Williams said. “I think we played with the biggest hearts that we’ve played with this year.”
The outcome was even more surprising given the outcome of the two teams’ meeting Jan. 2 when Northridge throttled UCSB 70-50 in a game that took senior forward Casey Cook out with a broken foot.
“Down in Northridge we really got rattled early, and I think that set the tempo for the game,” Harris said. “Tonight we did a good job of focusing, and when they came out to pressure us, we went right back at them with no hesitation.”
The win improves the Gaucho home record on the year to 6-1 going into Saturday’s home showdown with league-leading Pacific, a team that has been receiving votes in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls.
“The Gaucho Locos have been great,” Harris said. “Really, they help as much as anything. They get us into the game, get us focused and get us playing hard — and that’s why at the end of the game, we show them how much we appreciate them.”
Saturday’s game against Pacific (13-2, 8-0) will tip off at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome