Hollywood’s writers might be on strike right now, but if they weren’t, they would probably be writing basketball scenes like the one that unfolded late in the second half at the Thunderdome last night.
With UCSB (4-1 overall) holding on to a rapidly shrinking four-point lead against USF (2-2), senior guard Alex Harris committed his seventh turnover and angrily looked down at his bandaged thumb, the result of an injury suffered in practice last week. Harris ripped off the white athletic tape, and came back moments later to score the first of six consecutive points, all coming in just over a minute of action. From then on, the Gauchos made their free throws and protected the ball, eventually holding on for a 74-69 victory.
“I needed something to rip and it was the closest thing,” Harris said. “It was just frustrating that my left hand wasn’t 100 percent and surprisingly as a right-handed player I do kind of use my left hand the majority I guess. It was getting frustrating not having some of my go-to moves.”
Harris finished with a game-high 27 points on seven-of-12 shooting from the field, and nine-of-11 shooting from the free-throw line. After missing last Thursday’s victory over Cal Poly Pomona, the reigning Big West leading scorer showed no signs of rust, especially from beyond the arc where he made four-of-seven shots.
“A typical Alex Harris-type performance,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He really did a nice job offensively. He was very efficient.”
Senior forward Ivan Elliott opened the game with a three-pointer, and from that point on the Gauchos would never trail. With the Dons making a mini run at the end of the first half, junior forward Chris Devine hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give UCSB a 37-27 halftime lead. USF continued to hang around throughout the second half, but the Harris scoring outburst and seven consecutive made free throws put the game away.
“Every timeout, I just kept looking at that clock and hoping to get the win out of the way,” senior forward Nedim Pajevic said. “We still had the lead and control of the game. It just came down to making the free throws and not turning the ball over.”
Pajevic finished with symmetrical double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Devine scored 11 second-half points en route to 18 for the game, and added four rebounds and two steals. The Gauchos did play sloppy basketball at times, turning the ball over 23 times, but Williams was happy to come away with a victory.
“It’s really encouraging if you can win and realize that you have so many things to work on,” Williams said. “If you can learn lessons while you’re winning, that’s a great situation.”