The Cal Poly men’s basketball team must have forgotten to check the weather before coming to the Thunderdome, because its shooters went cold in a 64-37 loss to the Gauchos last night.
The Mustangs (7-15 overall, 5-5 in the Big West) shot a dismal 21.3 percent on the night, hitting just 10 of their 47 attempts from the floor. UCSB (11-11 overall, 4-6 Big West) on the other hand, avenged its loss last month in San Luis Obispo and brought its record back to .500 for the first time since Dec. 28.
“There’s no doubt we didn’t get Cal Poly’s best effort,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We played well at times. We were pretty alive defensively. We played good on the defensive end, but we did not get a typical Cal Poly effort offensively.”
After a slow start, the Gauchos took an early lead before Cal Poly tied it up at 15 with 10 minutes left in the first half. From there, the Mustangs would not find the bottom of the net for nine minutes, while UCSB went on a 15-0 run sparked by four straight free throws from two forwards, senior Cameron Goettsche and junior Glenn Turner. The Gauchos finished the half with a 32-19 advantage.
Despite its 13-point lead, Santa Barbara started off the second half aggressively. Senior guards Cecil Brown and Joe See kicked off the second half with consecutive buckets before fellow senior guard Michael Chambers hit a three and added three more on a fast break and a foul.
“I thought we started the second half really well,” Williams said. “I was pleased that we came out aggressive even with a big lead.”
With a commanding 44-19 lead and 16:28 left the Gauchos allowed Cal Poly an 11-6 run – ended by a trey from Brown eight minutes later. Over the final eight minutes, Santa Barbara extended its advantage, leading by as many as 30 points to close out its fourth straight win.
“We just have to stay with what we’ve been doing,” Brown said. “We need to keep working hard. We’ve found the formula and we just want to stick with it.”
Brown led all scorers with 14 points and added five rebounds. Turner nearly posted his second double-double of the season with nine points, 11 boards and four blocks. The Gauchos got 24 points from their bench, including 12 from Goettsche – his first double-digit points total since Jan. 9 – and eight from sophomore guard Alex Harris. Santa Barbara’s 92.3 percent free throw shooting is its best performance from the charity stripe this season.
“The bench play has been a big difference in our resolution, with Cam and Al coming off the bench, and their production,” Williams said. “At halftime we were up by 13 and our bench scoring was at 13.”
Cal Poly had almost nothing to console them in the loss. Junior forward Derek Stockalper led the Mustangs with seven points, four of which came from the charity stripe. Sophomore guard Dawin Whiten, who dropped 24 points on the Gauchos last month, left a goose egg on the score sheet, going 0-9 from the floor. Cal Poly was the first opponent Santa Barbara has held under 40 points this season.
“We’re capable of shooting the basketball,” Cal Poly Head Coach Kevin Bromley said. “Our focus and mental toughness wasn’t there tonight.”
Santa Barbara’s four-game winning streak is its longest since early in the 2003-2004 season. Next up, the Gauchos – and the rest of the Big West – participate in ESPN Bracket Buster Saturday, traveling to San Jose State for a 4:30 p.m. tip off Saturday.
“The goal from here is just to keep playing the best basketball we can,” Goettsche said. “It doesn’t matter if we win or lose. Coach just wants us playing the best basketball we can going into the [Big West] Tournament.”