Two days removed from the buzzer-beating shot that lifted the UC Santa Barbara men’s basketball team over University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and into the team’s best start in over a decade, the Gauchos are still fired up.
UCSB (6-1 overall) is undefeated at the Thunderdome, but the Gauchos will look to keep their momentum away from home as they head to Loyola Marymount’s Gersten Pavilion for the team’s first road contest in its last five games.
“It’s a really big road game and actually the second true road test for us, with the first being at Stanford,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “It’s a chance to prove our mettle.”
When the two squads clashed last season, Santa Barbara fell to the Lions 77-60 despite four Gauchos scoring in double-figures. Alex Harris had 15 to lead the way and junior forward Chris Devine added 13, however, on Loyola’s side, only one Lions starter from that game finds himself on their current 2007 roster.
“These are two completely different teams from last year,” Williams said. “They lost some key guys and we have a lot of guys back, but this is a dangerous game in their house.”
Loyola Marymount (2-5) comes off a loss to San Diego State on Wednesday night where 19 Aztec steals led to 25 Lions turnovers. Sophomore guard Shawn Deadwiler posted a team-high 14 points in that game, but the Lions have been relying on freshman guard Orlando Johnson and his 11.6 points per game for the majority of the scoring responsibilities.
Although Harris has been UCSB’s go-to guy down the stretch in games, sophomore guard James Powell has supported him immensely from beyond the arc. After already notching a career-high 24 points against Cal Poly Pomona, Powell shot five-for-six from three-point range against UNLV in the second half to continue his second season as a Gaucho in dramatic fashion.
“His second half against UNLV could be a springboard for him,” Williams said. “He’s a great shooter, but he’s been a little off, so hopefully that was a confidence booster for him.”
Including the team’s victory over the Runnin’ Rebels, Santa Barbara has now defeated three of the five teams the Gauchos faced last season. In 2006, UCSB won against familiar names like Montana State, UNLV, Pepperdine and San Francisco, and only lost to Loyola Marymount. This year’s 6-1 start is the Gauchos best since the 1992-93 campaign when they began 8-1.
Saturday’s contest tips off at 7 p.m.