The Gauchos stole the show Thursday night against conference rival Cal Poly.
UCSB (18-6, 7-4 in Big West) used 16 steals and 24 Mustang turnovers to complete its season sweep of Cal Poly (9-14, 4-7 in Big West) with a 60-47 victory.
Senior guard Alex Harris scored a game-high 21 points (7-7 from the free-throw line), and senior forward Chris Devine added 16 points for his second-consecutive game in double-figures. The Mustangs were playing without junior guard Chaz Thomas and senior guard Dawin Whiten, who combine for over 16 of Cal Poly’s points per night, and the visitors struggled by shooting just 34.8 percent from the field.
“We tried to take advantage of the fact that their point guard play was limited, and so we tried to pressure Trae Clark,” Harris said. “He’s a great playmaker, so the more we could get it out of his hands, the more we felt we could speed them up and maybe get some turnovers, and for the most part, it worked tonight. And when we got some turnovers, Coach was telling us to push, so we got some easy baskets that way.”
A closely contested first half featured three ties and six lead changes, but the Gauchos utilized nine steals and nine assists to take a 31-25 advantage into halftime. Santa Barbara exploded with an 11-1 run coming out of the locker room, and never trailed in the second half. Harris and Devine each scored 10 points during the second period even though UCSB continued to struggle from long range.
“If we’re just settling for threes and they’re not falling, then that takes away from what we can do,” Harris said. “So the fact that Chris had a big night and was playing so hard and our bigs really came to play tonight, I think we really feed off that and we can really turn up the defense. It was just an all-around team effort.”
The Gauchos converted an efficient 13-15 from the free-throw line, which more than made up for an off night from beyond the arc.
“I think we’re one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country, and I certainly want to see us get at the line,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I think if we get to the free-throw line 20-plus times a game, we’re a very difficult team to beat.”
UCSB heads north to play UC Davis this Saturday, as part of a three-game road trip.