The UCSB men’s basketball exhibition season will wrap up tonight when the Gauchos play host to Westmont at the Thunderdome.
The Gauchos will look to keep their momentum going after beating San Diego 62-51 last Wednesday. UCSB dominated early, but the Tritons managed to keep the score close in the second half – a feat that Westmont will most likely have trouble accomplishing. In last season’s exhibition game, UCSB defeated the Warriors 96-56 behind a career-high 25 points from senior guard Cecil Brown. With Brown still out of the lineup with a leg injury, UCSB will count on junior forward Chris Devine and junior guard Alex Harris to shoulder the majority of the scoring load. The duo combined for 36 points against UCSD.
“You’re pleased to see that [Alex Harris and Chris Devine] kind of do what Al and Chris need to do,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “The one thing is that if we are going to be using Chris at [small forward], we are going to have to create a few things that give him the opportunity to play at the three, but still get the ball where he’s most effective.”
Devine, an All-Big West preseason selection, spent the majority of the UCSD game on the perimeter with forwards sophomore Tom Garlepp and junior Ivan Elliott manning the post positions. Elliott, a transfer from West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif., contributed strong defense and rebounding as well as a healthy dose of enthusiasm in his first game as a Gaucho. Despite the influx of new players, the Gauchos appear to have their best team chemistry in years.
“The chemistry is great,” Devine said. “I think we’ve got a lot to work on, but I have a really good feeling about this team.”
While the exhibition games do not count in the regular season standings, they are invaluable when it comes to working on aspects of the game that cannot be replicated in practice. The first exhibition game provided the Gauchos with an opportunity to withstand a strong UCSD second-half run, and Williams indicated that he was happy that his team had to face some adversity. Exhibition games also provide the Gauchos with a look at different defenses. Against UCSD they were forced to contend with a full-court press as well as a 1-3-1 zone.
“In an exhibition game you’re kind of glad that there is a run,” Williams said. “You’re glad they had to make some plays to hold it off. We get more out of that as coaches.”
With Brown expected to be out until January with a stress fracture in his right foot, Harris will have the opportunity to prove that he can be the Gauchos go-to scorer on the perimeter. The former point guard spent the summer playing in the highly competitive San Francisco Pro-Am League, and the experience looks to have made him a much better player.
“The [summer league] made me realize that I can get by guys much quicker and much stronger than me just by using angles,” Harris said. “It’s really helped me focus on attacking the basket. I was probably the lightest guy in every game we played but I got to the rim a lot so I was saying to myself, ‘If I can get to the rim here, I should definitely be able to get to the rim in college games.'”
Tonight’s tip-off will be at 7 in the Thunderdome.