UCSB last played Cal Poly Pomona in 1972, coming away with a 71-64 victory to increase the series advantage to 11-2 all time. Some things never change.
The Gauchos (3-1 overall) defeated the Broncos (0-1) 75-56 last night behind a strong first half that saw UCSB shoot 57 percent from beyond the arc. With senior guard Alex Harris out with a thumb injury, sophomore guard James Powell picked up the scoring pace, dropping 11 points in the first half and finishing with a career-high 24 points for the game. Powell shot eight-of-12 from the field, including four-of-seven from beyond the arc and a perfect four-for-four at the free-throw line.
“When Al [Harris] is out, James [Powell] definitely becomes our number one option on the perimeter, no doubt about it,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He took some tough shots but he got in a good groove.”
UCSB led 39-22 at the half, on the strength of eight-of-14 shooting on three-pointers. Seven different Gauchos found success from beyond the arc overall, and the Gauchos finished the game 11-of-22 on threes. Hot shooting was the theme of the night as UCSB shot 52.4 percent from the field and finished 20-of-23 from the free-throw line.
“We spread the defense and it gave everybody lanes to create their own shot,” said senior forward Nedim Pajevic. “Everybody has a chance to penetrate and get in the hole and hopefully get easy shots.”
In addition to scoring 11 points and pulling down a game-high eight rebounds, Pajevic showed off a dazzling passing touch that has added a new dimension to the Gauchos half-court offense. On a night where he didn’t miss a shot, Pajevic also finished with a team-high five assists.
“I think he’s the best passer we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Williams said. “He needs to be more of a guy that we can isolate, but boy, you give him the ball up top and he has great eyes and great passing skills. He sees the floor exceptionally well.”
The Gauchos showed off their depth throughout, as even junior walk-on guard Nick Quick got into the action, draining a three-pointer to put the finishing touches on the victory. Ten different players scored, with junior forward Chris Devine joining Powell and Pajevic in double-figures with 13 points. On a night, where Harris and his 23 points-per-game sat on the bench with a thumb injury, the Gauchos were forced to find scoring from other sources. Powell stepped up to lead the charge, a good sign for UCSB’s scoring future.
“James shot really well and it was a good test for us just to see how we can do in the future [without Alex Harris],” Pajevic said.