A tough holiday homestand continues tonight for the UCSB men’s basketball team, as the Gauchos (3-1 overall) host the University of San Francisco (2-1) at 7 at the Thunderdome.
This will be the first significant home test for the Gauchos, but the team is expected to get a boost if senior guard Alex Harris is able to suit up. Harris is listed as day-to-day with an injured thumb, but his team-leading 23 points per game will be needed if the Gauchos are to keep up with a Dons offense that is led by sophomore Dior Lowhorn, who is averaging 25 points per game.
Regardless of Harris’ status, the Gauchos will continue to rely on a new defensive system that is leading to increased turnovers and easy scoring opportunities. With the Dons presenting an upgrade over most of UCSB’s previous opponents, tonight’s game will also provide a good look at whether or not the Gauchos are able to play at such a high pace without falling into foul trouble.
“We’ve got to find the comfort zone between pressuring and not fouling too much,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We have to find that balance point and work at pressuring without fouling.”
With Harris watching in street clothes during last Thursday’s victory over Cal Poly Pomona, the offense was paced by sophomore guard James Powell and senior forward Nedim Pajevic. Powell scored a career-high 24 points in the 75-56 victory, and Pajevic added a new dimension to the offense with his deft passing touch.
“I just like watching everybody get involved and I feel like, offensively, when everybody participates, everyone does a better job on defense as well,” Pajevic said. “It should be the other way around, but in today’s age, I feel like us youngsters rely on offense to get us going on defense.”
After only two home games, Pajevic has already become a crowd favorite, as his passing and Geraldo-esque mustache have added considerable entertainment for Gaucho fans.
“It originally started as a joke to test Coach Williams to see how far it could go, but now it’s caught on as a trend,” Pajevic said. “Every day I wake up and totally forget the mustache is even there until I actually look in the mirror and go, ‘Nedim, you have a freaking mustache, man, what are you doing?’ I think it adds a little extra flair to our team, and it’s also a distraction because [opponents] might think it’s a joke and I’ll take that if it’ll get me a couple of easy shots or passes.”