The UCSB men’s basketball team used a balanced scoring attack to even the season series with UC Davis and put the finishing touches on a perfect 3-0 road trip.
The Gauchos (14-6 overall, 5-2 in the Big West) beat the Aggies (4-16) 66-48 to avenge a Jan. 13 loss at the Thunderdome. Junior guard Alex Harris struggled from the field, but the Gauchos got strong performances from the rest of the starting lineup, and freshman guard James Powell came off the bench to score nine points on four-of-six shooting. UCSB shot 48 percent from the field in the second half and made 13-of-15 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
“It’s good to see other guys step up and give us production,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “There was way better ball movement in the second half and we got a little momentum going and started to hit some shots.”
Harris, the Big West’s leading scorer, did not make a field goal until midway through the second half, but Powell and junior forward Chris Devine kept the Gauchos in the game early on. The duo combined for 13 first half points on six-of-seven shooting, but the Gauchos still trailed 24-23 at half time. However UCSB started the second half on a 21-6 run and never looked back.
Devine finished with a game-high 19 points on eight-of-10 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and three assists. Freshman point guard Justin Joyner played a game-high 36 minutes and reached double-digits in scoring for the third game in a row. Joyner finished with 12 points on five-of-nine shooting, in addition to a career-high tying seven rebounds. Junior forward Ivan Elliott scored seven points and pulled down a career-high 12 rebounds, including six offensive boards.
“[Joyner] is playing with so much more confidence from the offensive end right now and Ivan [Elliott] was sensational,” Williams said. “He was flying around and getting big rebounds and tip-ins.”
After making six three-pointers to pull away from the Gauchos in the teams first meeting this season, the Aggies struggled against a much-improved UCSB defense. Davis shot only 33 percent from the field, including four-of-26 shooting from beyond the arc. Senior forward Thomas Juillerat and sophomore forward Kyle Brucculeri led the Aggies with 10 points apiece.
The Gauchos also benefited from a staggering disparity in free throws, as UCSB made four more free throws than Davis attempted. The Gauchos finished the night 18-of-22 from the line, in large part to Harris – who made nine-of-10 free throw attempts.
Harris finished the night with only 11 points, well short of his season average of 21.2 points per game. He made only one-of-13 field goal attempts and finished the night zero-for-six on three pointers. It was only the third time this season that Harris has been held to under 16 points.
UCSB now returns home for two crucial home games against UC Irvine (10-13, 4-5 Big West) and Long Beach State (14-6, 5-2 Big West). The Gauchos eked out a 64-59 victory against the Anteaters on Jan. 6, only two nights after getting blown out by the 49ers 101-65.