The only consolation for the UCSB men’s basketball team on Saturday night was that UC Davis is still not officially part of the Big West Conference. Playing in front of the third-largest home crowd of the year, the Gauchos (11-5 overall, 3-1 in the Big West) blew a 13-point first half lead en route to a 70-66 loss to the Aggies (3-12 overall).
While the loss does not count in the conference standings, it is still extremely disappointing for a Gaucho team that was looking to get back on the right track after a blowout loss to Long Beach and a narrow victory over Irvine in the beginning of conference play. UCSB led 34-21 with 3:43 remaining in the first half, but the Aggies cut the lead to 34-29 at halftime and quickly built a lead of their own in the second half.
“We weren’t as mentally prepared as we needed to be,” junior guard Alex Harris said. “We missed several assignments defensively that I can remember and I’m sure more that we’ll see on tape. They took advantage of that and the mistakes we made and they buried us.”
Early on, the Gauchos had no answer for Davis senior forward Thomas Juillerat, who scored 13 points in the first half on the way to a team-high 16 points on the night. While Juillerat did his best to keep the score close, it was senior forward Ari Warmerdam who pushed the Aggies into the lead. Warmerdam scored 14 points in 12 second-half minutes including back-to-back threes to fuel a 9-0 Davis run that gave the Aggies a 55-46 lead.
Harris turned in another eye-opening performance for the Gauchos, scoring a game-high 28 points on eight-of-16 shooting. Harris, the Big West’s leading scorer, shot three out of six from beyond the arc and nine-of-12 from the free throw line, despite being the focus of the Davis defense all night long.
“We tried to throw everything that we had at [Harris] and he still scored 28,” Davis Head Coach Gary Stewart said. “He’s a great player. I’m not sure we could have defended him any better than we did.”
With Harris and junior forward Chris Devine facing double- and triple-teams throughout the match, the Gauchos were hurt by the lack of a reliable third scorer and a complete absence of production off the bench.
Senior guard Cecil Brown was the only reserve to score, finishing with nine points and a team-high five assists in 28 minutes off the bench. Five other Gaucho backups saw playing time, but they combined for only one field goal attempt and zero points in 35 minutes of action.
After making zero out of seven attempts on three-pointers in the first half, the Aggies hit six-of-15 from beyond the arc in the second half to quickly erase the Gaucho halftime lead. Davis shot 52.1 percent from the field on the night; the Aggies were consistently able to hit big shots and keep the crowd of 2,644 out of the game. It was the second-highest mark by a Gaucho opponent this season, as UCSB had been allowing opponents to shoot only 41 percent from the field.
“I was disappointed with our effort and I was disappointed with our preparation,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I hope this is a wake up call. We’re not good enough to just roll it out and go play”
After losing two of their last three games, the Gauchos now have a week to prepare for a home matchup against Big West rival Cal Poly next Saturday at 7 p.m.