The UCSB men’s basketball team kicked its offense into full throttle Wednesday night, clobbering crosstown rival Westmont 96-56.
The Gauchos exploded offensively, boasting three double-digit scorers and 25 assists on 52.9 percent shooting from the field. Senior guard Cecil Brown was on fire, going 3-4 from three-point range while leading all scorers with 25 points.
“I thought Cecil was excellent tonight on both ends of the court,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He was really confident and shot very well. Even when he got hot there, he had really good shot selection. I think we had good shot selection the entire second half, we weren’t trying to force anything.”
Santa Barbara used a 17-6 run with seven minutes remaining to take a 41-25 advantage into the half. Westmont senior forward and leading scorer Nick Debban carried the team in the first half. Debban headed to the locker rooms with 18 points on 8-11 shooting and as the only Warrior to score more than three points in the half.
The second half saw a more efficient Gaucho offense that scored 55 points and shot 5-9 from three-point range. UCSB finished the game 10-19 from downtown after attempting just three treys in last week’s win over UC San Diego.
“We’re getting more familiar with each other. I think we came out more relaxed tonight,” senior guard Josh Davis said. “The first game we were still getting a feel for each other but tonight we were relaxed and confident in our abilities.”
Freshman guards Lance Hurdle and James Powell took full advantage of an opportunity to show off their skills in the second half. Powell drained all of his shots – all from beyond the arc – and finished with 12 points and three assists. Hurdle demonstrated his athleticism, snagging six steals, scoring eight points and dishing four assists in just 15 minutes of play.
“These guys are very athletic and highly motivated. They have been getting up at 6 a.m. to go shooting,” Davis said. “They are really hungry and they got big time minutes tonight. I think they showed just a glimpse of what they can do.”
Defensively, Santa Barbara put up a roadblock for the Warriors. The Gauchos forced 28 turnovers and held Westmont to just 42.3 percent shooting from the floor. UCSB finished the night with 14 steals and two blocks and held 10 of the Warriors’ 12 players under seven points.
“Most of all I was impressed with [the Gauchos’] defense. It is better than it has been in a while,” Westmont Head Coach John Moore said. “We were trying to do too many things. They exploited a great majority of those things.”
After putting up just 57 points against UC San Diego last week, the Gauchos spread the ball around in almost reaching the century-mark Wednesday. Eight players finished with at least one assist and Santa Barbara came up with an exceptional 25-10 assists to turnover ratio. Sophomore guard Alex Harris led the squad with six assists followed by sophomore forward Chris Devine who recorded five.
With the exhibition games over, UCSB will now look ahead to its season opener Nov. 18 against San Francisco at the Thunderdome.
“I’m really pulling for [the Gauchos],” Moore said. “This is one of the better [UCSB] teams we’ve played against. We’ve never been clobbered like this here.”