Good thing it was just an exhibition.
The UCSB men’s basketball team came away with an ugly 61-57 victory over Cal State Dominguez Hills last night in the Gauchos’ only exhibition game before the regular season starts next week. In a game that saw the two teams combine to shoot 12-of-54 in the second half, to go along with 46 total turnovers, the Gauchos used tough defense down the stretch to hold the Toros at bay. Despite the tense final minutes, the Gauchos weren’t the least bit worried about the close final score.
“It’s a typical exhibition, they always tend to be a little like that,” junior forward Chris Devine said. “I had no idea who they were, I didn’t know anything about them so I couldn’t say [if it was too close].”
While the results might not show it, the play on the floor certainly indicated that this is a different UCSB team from last season. The Gauchos played with an up-tempo style that led to 18 steals and countless fast break opportunities. With all 12 active Gauchos getting in the game, and Head Coach Bob Williams regularly using hockey-style mass substitutions, the Gauchos pushed the pace and never let their foot off the pedal. Only a plethora of missed layups by the Gauchos and a few defensive breakdowns kept the aggressiveness from showing up in the final box score.
“We need to get to a point where we can run [the press] and get the turnovers but not give up easy buckets at all,” said senior guard Alex Harris. “The defense would have been a lot more impressive if along with those turnovers we didn’t give up as many easy buckets. It’s brand new to everybody but that will just come with repetition.”
Harris led the way with 16 points in only 28 minutes of action, including a pair of clutch free throws down the stretch to salt away the game. Devine finished with 14 points and a game-high seven rebounds and sophomore guard James Powell chipped in six boards and a game-high six assists.
Ten different Gauchos got at least 10 minutes of action, including a pair of newcomers who showed that they will be crucial cogs in the Gaucho rotation. Senior forward Nedim Pajevic scored seven points in only 18 minutes of action and showed off a sweet-looking jumper to go along with a mustache that would make even Borat swell up with pride. Junior transfer D.J. Posley showed off tremendous quickness and proved to be more than capable of leading the full-court press. Both newcomers were part of a platoon system that Williams used to keep his pressing Gauchos fresh.
“We need to get used to playing as hard as we’re playing, and in the second half we didn’t seem to have our legs under us when shooting the ball,” Williams said. “We’re going to have to do a lot of substituting to play as hard as we’re going to play.”
The Gauchos now have eight days off before heading to Stanford for the Basketball Travelers Classic, however the players don’t believe that tonight’s close game will have any lingering effects. With a game against Stanford looming on the schedule, Devine summed up the teams newfound confidence and swagger when asked if they were worried at all.
“Not even a little bit,” he said.