The five seniors on the UCSB men’s basketball team showed off their stuff for one last time at the Thunderdome on Saturday, earning an 81-71 win over UC Riverside to finish off their home careers.
Senior guards Cecil Brown, Josh Davis, Joe See and Michael Chambers, and senior forward Cameron Goettsche combined for 51 points in the win, giving the Gauchos (13-12 overall, 5-7 in the Big West) their sixth win in the past seven games.
“It was a good game,” Goettsche said. “I’m glad we could win on Senior Day.”
Although UCSB led for all but 1:57 of the game, the Highlanders kept it close, never falling behind by more than 12 points. A 10-10 tie seven minutes into the game would be the last. The Gauchos took control and led for the final 33 minutes.
Santa Barbara built a 34-28 lead at the half, relying on 42.9-percent shooting from the floor and Brown’s 10 points. The Highlanders hit just 9-28 from the field, four of which came from senior guard Rickey Porter. All four of Porter’s buckets came from beyond the arc, helping him lead first half’s scoring with 16 points.
“Rickey had a great first half,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He’s a 32-percent three-point shooter and he makes four of five in the first half and four of their five threes [in the game]. He obviously carried a big load for them.”
A slow start to the second half allowed Riverside to quickly close the gap to two. The Gauchos responded with a 16-6 run sparked by a substitution that saw Brown, Chambers and sophomore forward Chris Devine come out and Davis, Goettsche and sophomore guard Alex Harris come in. The three combined to score 14 points in the run, building a 50-38 lead, Santa Barbara’s biggest of the game.
“[At] the start of the second half, we were stagnant, no energy,” Brown said. “I think that changed when Coach took me, Chambers and Devine out and put in Josh, Al and Cam.”
The Highlanders (4-21, 3-10 Big West) put together enough offense to cut the lead to less than seven six times after the UCSB run. Although Porter only added eight in the second half, senior forwards Klaus Schille and David Misko and senior guard Steve Williams combined for 26 points in the final 20 minutes. Schille and Misko snagged eight of the Highlanders’ 14 offensive boards that led to 21 second-chance points on the game.
“I thought that, defensively, we were not quite up to speed,” Williams said. “Offensively, we played well enough to win the game. It’s not easy to guard [Riverside]. They go at the basket with no abandon.”
The Gauchos just topped Riverside offensively, shooting 50 percent from the field and committing just four turnovers, their lowest total of the season. Brown led UCSB with 19 points, marking the 15th game this season that a senior has led the team in scoring. Harris and Goettsche added 15 and 14 points, respectively, helping Santa Barbara rack up 36 points off the bench.
“We went so long getting nothing from the bench,” Williams said. “We get 29 points from Cam and Al plus seven from Josh – that’s 36 points from the bench. With the three of them coming off the bench, I can’t tell you how many times they have come into a game and we have separated ourselves [from the opponent].”
With their final home game done, the Gauchos are set to finish their regular season on the road this week. UCSB travels to first-place Pacific on Thursday before playing its final game Saturday at Cal State Northridge. For the first time this season, Santa Barbara has some momentum going on the road, having won three straight and four of its last five away from the Thunderdome.
“We’ve been playing very well on the road,” Brown said. “That’s really good right now, especially heading to these two arenas that are really tough to play in.”