Senior forward Ivan Elliott got into the passing lane, dribbled the ball downcourt and threw down a vicious one-handed slam.
UCSB’s defense energized its offense en route to a 60-45 victory over UC Davis (8-12, 2-5 in the Big West) Saturday night at the Thunderdome. The Gauchos scored 16 points off turnovers in the first half and never trailed in the game as they improved to 15-5 overall and 4-3 in the Big West.
“It was a good defensive half,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I’d say maybe 33 to 34 minutes of the game we played pretty well on the defensive end. I was really pleased that the guys didn’t back off. The team’s going to get a few buckets on you down the road and letting up 45 [points] in a game is pretty good.”
Senior guard Alex Harris paced Santa Barbara with a game-high 14 points followed by junior forward Chris Devine, who added 12 on five-of-six shooting. However, UCSB’s 21 bench points made the biggest difference with three players putting in six apiece.
“I think it’s the best bench performance in terms of their focus when they went in the game,” Williams said. “Everybody that came off really contributed in a positive way at both ends of the floor. You can look at our wins and we shoot the ball better and our bench contributes at a higher level. This was a very good game for the bench in terms of defense and offense.”
UCSB established a 10-0 lead to begin the game and while Davis didn’t get its first field goal until nearly eight minutes into the contest, the Aggies responded with a 9-3 run to climb back within four. Then, for the second consecutive game, fans watched freshman guard Jordan Weiner ignite the Gaucho offense with two three-pointers amidst a 14-4 spurt to close out the half.
“I felt coach put me in to get a spark,” Weiner said. “Right when I got in the game, Justin [Joyner] came up to me and just said, ‘I’m getting you the ball right now, just shoot it when you get it.’ We weren’t getting many baskets, so I felt that coach put me in the game for a reason, and that was to shoot the ball.”
Three minutes into the second half, a pair of threes and two layups had the Aggies back within nine, but they would never come any closer because senior forward Nedim Pajevic and junior guard D.J. Posley continued UCSB’s strong bench play.
“We try to make the defense better because that’s what we need to bring to the table first,” Posley said. “We try to pick it up and make it even better than the first group, so we feel we need to bring the energy that they don’t have.”
Posley also came alive offensively and finished with six points all on mid-range jumpers, while Pajevic, who sported his high-school number 33, helped across the board with six points, four rebounds and three assists.
“I feel like when I put the 33 on, I’m a little different player as far as not trying to do too much of one thing, but trying to do a little bit of everything,” Pajevic said. “When I go in the games now and I feel like guys are frustrated, I try to look for my shot, but I also try to look for other guys to set them up.”
On Davis’ side, freshman guard Mark Payne led the way with 13 points and nine rebounds, but UCSB had larger problems with 7-2 junior center Michael Boone who had nine points, eight rebounds and five blocks. However, the Aggies were never able to consistently employ their back-cuts on offense, and Santa Barbara held Davis to just seven assists, its fewest number all season.
“I thought our guys did a nice job adjusting to what they do in terms of staying more in their running lanes rather than up the line,” Williams said. “It’s one of the good things about playing Westmont, because we get a taste of it early and Coach [John] Moore does such a great job of running the Princeton Offense that it gives us experience with it so we feel that if you can pressure the ball and stay between them and the basket, you’re alright.”
UCSB heads to UC Riverside’s Student Rec Center this Wednesday to play the single road game of the Gauchos’ next four.