It might not have counted on their conference record, but Thursday night’s raking of the Gauchos sure must have felt like a crucial Big West victory for UC Davis.
Davis, who had lost five straight coming in, trailed just once (UCSB 2, UCD 0) to the once-formidable Big West contenders, fending off a frustrated Gaucho team 72-63. Aggie forward Ryan Moore scored 21 points and was the maestro for the Davis symphony that, at times, led by as much as 23 points in the win over the road-weary Gauchos, who lost their tenth straight away from the Thunderdome.
“They were definitely the more physical team out there,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “They understand what they have to do to win, and I don’t think our guys understand what we have to do to be successful.”
The game was somewhat of a homecoming for Williams, who returned to Davis for the first time since guiding the Aggies to a Division II National Championship in 1998.
“It’s been nice to be back here, but we’re up here to play a basketball game. I appreciate the announcement before the game,” Williams said. “But we’ve had six years where we’ve been pretty darn competitive, and these are trying times right now.”
The win is Davis’ fourth against a Big West opponent, but this was its most convincing triumph. Davis led 32-21 at halftime, and, despite a scare from an all-guard Gaucho lineup in the majority of the second half, the Aggies comfortably insisted that the game was theirs.
“I’m going to give Davis a lot of credit – I thought Gary [Stewart] had them very well prepared,” Williams said. “They played really hard.”
Though the Gauchos fell behind by 23 points with just under 15 minutes left to play, a lineup consisting of mostly guards brought the Gauchos to within an encouraging six points with 2:10 left in the game. Unfortunately, as was the custom with the rest of the game, the Gauchos just couldn’t hit net when they needed to, firing up bricks while Davis nailed free throws.
UCSB shot a mediocre but typical 37 percent in the road loss, while 53 percent from the field. To add injury to poor play, UCSB lost junior forward Cameron Goettsche and sophomore forward Glenn Turner to first-half injuries, leaving them without a post presence, but it appeared to be a blessing in disguise as the Gauchos posted twice as many points in the second half (42) as the first (21).
UCSB will have the weekend off to regroup, returning to action Wednesday when it will head north again to take on #24 Pacific. After Thursday’s game, Williams mentioned that he might approach that game with a different strategy.
“We’re struggling for an identity on the road – we’re struggling for any post production,” Williams said. “We were a better team when we went five guards. With five guards, we can at least create some offense.”