It wasn’t pretty, but the Gauchos pulled off another win.
Saturday night, the UCSB men’s basketball team improved to 7-1 after defeating Loyola Marymount (2-6 overall) by a score of 63-56 at the Lions’ Gersten Pavilion.
Senior guard Alex Harris led the way for UCSB with 21 points and junior forward Chris Devine contributed 13 along with a team-high nine rebounds. Despite forcing 15 first-half Lion turnovers, the Gauchos struggled shooting, only hitting eight-of-30 from the floor, in the opening period.
“We certainly didn’t shoot quite as well in the first half,” Devine said. “Defensively we were fine, they had 21 points [at halftime], so we weren’t really worried about that, but offensively we were very stagnant.”
Although Loyola jumped out to an early lead, Santa Barbara roared back with a 12-1 run highlighted by two threes from Harris and one from sophomore guard James Powell. UCSB also had three steals in that span, but foul trouble slowed them down after Devine and senior forward Nedim Pajevic both picked up their second fouls.
Freshman forward Sam Phippen and junior forward Beau Gibb came off the bench to combine for six rebounds in the first half including an offensive rebound and the put-back by Gibb to give the Gauchos a two-point lead as the teams headed to halftime 23-21. Head Coach Bob Williams attributed the Gauchos’ early struggles to their practices last week.
“I think we had back to back bad practices,” Williams said. “You never play worse than your worst practice. I didn’t get the most out of them at practice and so we certainly didn’t get the best out of them this game.”
Both teams charged out of the gates offensively in the second half. UCSB recorded assists on six of its first seven field goals to open the period, but the Lions also shot better after the break as sophomore guard Shawn Deadwiler knocked down two three-pointers in the first six minutes to keep Loyola close.
“I thought we came out and shared the ball really well in the second half,” Williams said. “We scored a majority of our points as a team either off fouls or very good passes. To start the second half, we had six post touches and six buckets.”
Santa Barbara went on a 7-2 run midway through the second period for the squad’s largest lead of the game – a nine-point advantage. Devine was instrumental in the surge scoring five straight points, but the Alaska native picked up his fourth foul with 4:06 to go and was forced to take a seat.
With their second leading scorer on the bench, the Gauchos looked to Harris who scored on a jumper at the 1:46 mark. With 40 seconds to go, senior guard Jon Ziri sent senior forward Ivan Elliott to the line where he put UCSB up by four after making one of two free throws. Ziri then promptly air-balled a three-pointer and Powell calmly netted two foul shots of his own to maintain the advantage for a Gaucho victory.
“We were pretty charged,” Devine said. “Defensively, we didn’t look past them at all, I mean we were up there busting our tails, but offensively we were just out of sync. We brought that energy; we just have to share the ball more.”
A pair of Lion career-highs dotted the stat sheet, including 23 points from Deadwiler and a 12-rebound night for Ziri. Deadwiler nailed five three-pointers in the game, but Loyola remained at 56 after the team missed all three of its long-range attempts in the final minute.
“They’ll fight you defensively,” Williams said. “They’ll ultimately be pretty good, but they don’t have that physical presence down low to dump the ball to and get you a bucket.”
UCSB will have a chance to build on its five-game winning streak this Wednesday when the Pepperdine Waves come to the Thunderdome.