If only the UCSB men’s basketball team could play every game on the road. After defeating Cal State Northridge on Thursday, the Gauchos withstood a late Pacific run on Saturday night to come away with a 70-62 victory and improve their record to 8-2 on the road this season.
The Gauchos (13-6 overall, 5-2 in the Big West) improved to 2-0 on their road trip and in the process snapped a six-game losing streak to the Tigers (7-12 overall, 3-3 in the Big West). UCSB led by as many as 20 points in the second half, but Pacific cut the lead to 62-59 with 43 seconds remaining before the Gauchos made eight out of 10 free throws in the game’s final minute to seal the victory.
“Our last three years [at Pacific] have been embarrassing, so for us to respond and get a win up here was big,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We got out of the gate early by hitting big shots, but they made a great run at us late and we lost our composure a little bit. We got a little tentative in our half-court game and it almost cost us.”
Junior guard Alex Harris led all scorers with 27 points on seven-of-12 shooting, including four-of-five from beyond the arc. Harris finished with seven rebounds, and went nine-of-12 from the free throw line. The Big West’s leading scorer overcame a physical Pacific defense to record the third-highest scoring tally of his career.
“[Harris] has to make sure he keeps his composure and just plays because when you’re a really good scorer, teams are going to try different tactics,” Williams said. “They did everything they could to keep it out of his hands and he still went for 27 on them.”
Junior forward Chris Devine finished with 10 points and four rebounds despite suffering a cut on his elbow that required post-game stitches. Freshman guard Justin Joyner followed up a career game against CSUN by scoring 10 points against the Tigers, and senior guard Cecil Brown added seven points and a team-high six assists.
The surprise performance of the night came from senior forward Glenn Turner who finished with eight rebounds, in a season-high 20 minutes of action. Turner, who is playing with strained ligaments in his right thumb, came down with several big rebounds down the stretch to limit the Tigers offensive chances.
“This is what we need and what we want [from Turner],” Williams said. “I was really happy with him and when his hand gets better and he can catch and score, he’ll be a difference maker for us.”
Pacific junior guard Solomon Horsechief scored 17 points to lead the Tigers and senior guard Reggie Vezia and sophomore guard Steffan Johnson added 13 and 12 points, respectively. A three-pointer from Johnson reduced the Gaucho lead to six with 52 seconds remaining and three free throws from Horsechief cut the deficit to three. But that would be as far as the Tigers would get with their run.
“[Pacific] is a championship team and they’re not going to quit, so, in a sense, we had to be prepared for them to make a run of that nature,” Harris said. “I’m just glad that we stayed focused and kept our composure.”
The road trip continues on Thursday as the Gauchos travel to UC Davis to try to avenge a Jan. 13 home loss to the Aggies.