Anaheim, Calif. – The UCSB men’s basketball team has one win down and three to go on the road to the Big West Tournament championship, after demolishing UC Riverside in the first round last night.
The Gauchos (15-13 overall) used a 42-point second half and five double-digit scorers to deliver a demoralizing 76-44 defeat to Riverside, knocking the #8-seed out of the tournament.
“This was the best we could have possibly played,” senior guard Cecil Brown said. “This is the best situation for us. Everybody contributed and the minutes were spread out. This is a good thing for us to be rested after the first round.”
Trailing 17-12 halfway through the first half, Santa Barbara sparked a 22-7 run over the final nine minutes thanks in part to senior guard Michael Chambers. Coming off the bench for the first time in 10 games, Chambers notched seven of his 10 points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal over a six minute span, giving the Gauchos the only lead they would need. UCSB went to the locker rooms with a 34-24 advantage, improving its record when leading at the half to 12-1 this season.
“I’m very pleased in getting the opening round win,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I thought that in the first half the bench gave us a great spark.”
The Highlanders’ 13 turnovers in the first half resulted in 17 Santa Barbara points. Despite missing junior forward Glenn Turner due to injury, the Gauchos recorded 18 points in the paint in the first half and were led by sophomore forward Chris Devine’s nine points before the break.
Santa Barbara emerged from the locker rooms on fire, hitting nine of its first 11 field goals to build a 28-point lead while holding Riverside to just six points over the first 10:27 of the second half. In contrast to UCSB’s 60.9 percent shooting, Riverside could not seem to find the bottom of the net, shooting an ugly 7-35 from the field in the second half, never coming closer than 26 points over the final nine minutes of the game.
“We just created our own problems,” Riverside Head Coach David Spencer said. “If you look at games we’ve won, we’ve had a guy or a couple of guys step up beyond their normal level. … If you look at the stats tonight unfortunately, we really didn’t have anyone step up like that.”
Riverside senior guard Rickey Porter led all players with 13 points and was the only double-digit scorer for the Highlanders. Devine and Chambers both notched 10 points while senior forward Cameron Goettsche and senior guard Joe See added 11 apiece. Brown led the Gauchos with 12 points on the night. The Santa Barbara bench posted a combined 29 points and 18 rebounds, including six boards from sophomore forward Chris Moore.
“Getting those guys minutes can maybe develop their confidence,” Williams said. “We’re going to need that depth if we have to play several nights in a row. I am really pleased with the play off the bench tonight.”
The 32-point win was UCSB’s largest margin of victory in non-exhibition games this season. Defensively, the Gauchos forced 25 Riverside turnovers, recorded 10 steals and blocked nine shots. Goettsche led Santa Barbara in the absence of Turner, swatting a school record six shots.
The win pushes the #5-seed Gauchos into the second round of the tournament Thursday. Fourth-seeded
Central Coast rival Cal Poly awaits UCSB in the second game tonight with tip-off scheduled for 8:30 p.m.