The UCSB men’s basketball team is getting hot at exactly the right time. The Gauchos defeated Cal State Northridge 75-59 to win their third consecutive game and finish in a tie for second place in the Big West Conference.
After being honored before the game, seniors guard Cecil Brown and forward Glenn Turner set the tone early on for Santa Barbara (18-10 overall, 9-5 in the Big West). Brown scored eight straight points in the first half to help the Gauchos build a double-digit lead. In his final game at the Thunderdome, Brown finished with 15 points and tied his career record with six assists. Turner dominated the boards in the first half with seven rebounds, as well making six points and a game-high three blocks.
“It’s going to hurt leaving all these guys and these fans, but going out with a win is a cherry on top of my career,” Turner said. “Any time you have a winning streak you want to keep it rolling. We want to get to the Big West Tournament and make something happen.”
UCSB built a 35-23 lead at the half behind the hot shooting of Brown and junior guard Alex Harris, who combined for 21 points before the break. After struggling to hold halftime leads earlier this season, the Gauchos have now pulled away down the stretch in back-to-back games. UCSB extended its lead to 18 points early in the second half, and kept it at least eight points away from the Matadors (14-16 overall, 5-9 Big West) over the rest of the match. Harris attacked the hoop all game long and finished nine-of-10 from the free throw line. With a game-high 25 points, Harris won the Big West scoring championship, just barely edging Cal State Fullerton senior guard Bobby Brown. The NBA-bound Brown finished the Big West season with 289 points, four points shy of Harris’s conference-leading total of 293.
Junior forward Chris Devine finished with 16 points on five-of-seven shooting and with six rebounds. Freshman guard James Powell and junior forward Ivan Elliott once again provided a spark off the bench, combining for 13 points and seven rebounds. Junior forward Calvin Chitwood led the Matadors with 21 points and senior center Thomas Shewmake finished with 21 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
The Gauchos will be the fourth seed in this week’s Big West Tournament, meaning the team will have a bye into the second round. UCSB will play the highest remaining seed from Wednesday’s games, which is likely to be fifth-seeded UC Irvine (13-17 overall, 6-8 in the Big West). The Gauchos are 6-0 this season against their three possible second round opponents, including two wins over the Anteaters.
“We beat almost every team in the league so we feel pretty good about whoever we go up against,” Harris said. “It’s going to be a tough environment, but I think we matched up well against every team we played this season.”