Close finishes are beginning to be the norm for the UCSB men’s basketball team as the squad pulled out another hard-fought victory last night, defeating Pepperdine 89-80 in double overtime on the road.
The junior duo of guard Alex Harris and forward Chris Devine once again paved the way for the Gauchos (4-0 overall), showing why they have been the only two Big West Players of the Week this season. Devine led the team with 28 points and pulled down seven rebounds while Harris chipped in with 27 points and six boards.
Freshman guard James Powell put up another fine performance, netting a career-high 18 points. Santa Barbara overcame a slow start to shoot 49 percent on the night, offsetting their 27 turnovers caused in part by Pepperdine’s (1-4 overall) aggressive trap.
“Their man defense is their number one option,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “They play man and trap all the time and they drive everything at the rim.”
The Gauchos’ victory seemed certain near the end of regulation play, when a layup by Devine put UCSB ahead 64-60 with 23 seconds left. Senior guard Chase Griffin’s jumper reduced UCSB’s lead to two and a turnover by Powell gave Pepperdine another chance, leading to senior guard Jason Walberg’s game-tying score to send the match into overtime.
Santa Barbara once again had a chance to close out the game near the end of the first overtime as sophomore forward Tom Garlepp’s jumper with 35 seconds left gave UCSB a 72-69 lead. But Walberg tied the score yet again with a three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining, and another jump shot from Garlepp in the final seconds clanked off the rim, sending the game into a second overtime.
The final overtime turned out to be all UCSB; the Gauchos opened with a 13-5 run to put the game out of reach while Powell added nine points in the period. The squad did an excellent job getting to the free throw line all night long, sinking 26 of 33 attempts with a perfect seven of seven in the final overtime.
“I’m really pleased with our conditioning level and the stamina of our guys,” Williams said. “Their stamina was pretty darn good.”
Following his 17-point performance against University of Nevada, Las Vegas last weekend with yet another productive game, Powell has shown in the early part of the season that he can be counted on to be a consistent producer on offense. With senior guard Cecil Brown, last year’s leading scorer, still sidelined by injury, Powell’s play has eased the burden on Harris and Devine and given the Gauchos another option on offense.
UCSB’s 27 turnovers, a problem that has plagued the Gauchos so far this season, led to 31 Pepperdine points, but Santa Barbara turned in one if its best performances thus far on the boards, out-rebounding the Waves 32-20.
“I don’t think our guards did anywhere near as good a job taking care of the ball as they did at Vegas,” Williams said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had 27 turnovers and won the game.”
With Brown predicted to return possibly as early as this weekend, the Santa Barbara offense has been on a roll to start the year and it looks to get even better. Off to its best start since 1992, Santa Barbara’s next test comes this Saturday at 2 p.m. against San Diego State in the Thunderdome.