One week after a disappointing home loss to UC Davis, the UCSB men’s basketball team put together another poor showing in front of the Thunderdome crowd Saturday night, losing to Cal Poly 71-61.
The Mustangs (9-8 overall, 2-3 in the Big West) began the game in zone defense and the Gauchos (11-6 overall, 3-2 Big West) couldn’t find a way to break through, shooting just 31 percent in the first half and 37 percent for the game. Junior guard Alex Harris scored a game-high 19 points, but was just four-of-16 from the field including zero-of-nine in the first half. Harris scored 10 points from the foul line.
“They’re a really good zone team and right now we’re a terrible zone team,” senior guard Cecil Brown said. “Our rotations are late, guys are making little mistakes that are costing us wide open shots.”
Cal Poly took the early lead and dominated most of the first half, but thanks to 10 offensive rebounds and 14 second chance points, UCSB stayed within striking distance heading to the locker room, trailing 37-28. But the Mustangs started the second half much like they did the first, pushing their lead to 15 with 11:40 remaining.
Over the next six minutes, the Gaucho defense held Cal Poly scoreless and the team cut the deficit to seven with a layup scored by freshman guard Paul Roemer as he was fouled. But Roemer couldn’t complete the three-point play and the Mustangs quickly pushed their lead back up to 11.
During the final Gaucho surge, junior forward Chris Devine completed a three-point play with 2:48 on the clock to trim the deficit to six. After junior guard Dawin Whiten missed the front end of a one-and-one, Roemer missed a wide-open three-pointer to end any hope of a comeback.
“We didn’t bounce back very well, didn’t defend particularly well and they were quicker than us,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We did not have very many answers for them.”
Cal Poly shot 45 percent from the field and was able to drop into its zone defense that caused 12 UCSB turnovers, leading to 12 Mustang points. The Gauchos tallied only five assists, while the Mustangs registered 13 and only five turnovers.
After settling for just six shots against Davis (4-13) last week, Devine attempted seven against the Mustangs, knocking down two while hitting eight-of-11 from the line. Junior forward Ivan Elliot pulled down 10 first-half rebounds, but saw just five minutes in the second half as Santa Barbara struggled to contain the big body of sophomore forward Titus Shelton who netted 12 points for Cal Poly.
“For us to play with people we need a great performance out of Al and a great performance out of Chris, and we need Cecil to step up and give us a great performance,” Williams said.
Sophomore guard Trae Clark led the Mustangs with 19 points on six-of-nine shooting while senior forward Tyler McGinn chipped in with 14. The win was the first on the road for Cal Poly this year after losing its first six tries and it was also the first time in the Bob Williams era that the Gauchos dropped a game to their Central Coast rivals at home.
“You can’t lose home games,” Williams said. “You might be able to lose one and win the Big West. We’re very disappointed with how we’ve played in our last two performances and maybe it’s a good thing that we’re going back out on the road.”
The squad’s next three contests are all on the road, beginning Thursday when the Gauchos travel to Cal State Northridge (10-8 overall, 3-2 Big West), which sits tied with UCSB for third place in the Big West. So far the Gauchos have played better on the road than in the Thunderdome, posting a 6-2 record, but have dropped two of three on the road.
“We just need to trust our teammates a little bit more,” Brown said.
The game in Northridge is set to begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 27.