Senior forward Ivan Elliott served as Santa Barbara’s “Inside Man” Saturday night against UC Davis.
Away from the Thunderdome, the Gauchos (19-6 overall, 8-4 in the Big West) registered 44 points in the paint and grinded out a 77-73 win over the Aggies (8-17, 2-10 Big West).
“[Davis has] been really streaky shooting the ball,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We caught them on a good night and luckily we were resilient on the road when our perimeter shooting wasn’t really helping us a whole lot. We did a pretty good job inside and I really thought Ivan Elliott was the difference-maker.”
Elliott led the way with 18 points on eight-of-nine shooting from the field and a team-high eight rebounds, while junior forward Chris Devine contributed 15 points and seven boards. UCSB got the victory despite a career-high 26 points from Aggie sophomore forward Dominic Calegari who scored 14 of those in the first half.
“We’ve heard about Calegari,” Williams said. “He was injured earlier in the year, but that kid is the real deal. He’s a very difficult kid to guard. He can score over you, he shoots from three; he did a lot of nice things out there.”
UC Davis began the night with a three from Calegari, but Santa Barbara responded with a 12-0 run in which Elliott scored the first seven points on two lay-ups and a dunk. UCSB made none of its three-pointers in the first half, allowing the Aggies to eventually tie the game at 31 and then again at 33 going into the locker room for halftime.
The threes began to fall for the Gauchos early in the second period, with senior guard Alex Harris and sophomore guard James Powell each sinking a pair in the first seven minutes. Davis was able to hang around even though junior guard Vince Oliver picked up three fouls in less than two minutes to knock him out of the contest with just under 18 minutes to go. Nine points was UCSB’s largest margin before the Aggies cut it to one on a lay-up by junior guard Nathan Clark, who filled in for Oliver. Santa Barbara responded by going down low to Elliott and Devine in a crucial stretch that followed.
“[We were] just being relentless on the boards,” Elliott said. “I was feeling like, even offensively, if any of our posts got it inside, we could just go to work on their posts. And when they started coming back we went away from that and then we ended up going right back to it so I think that’s what else that got us the win.”
UCSB was up by six with the ball and 2:30 on the clock, but UC Davis attempted to foul sophomore guard Justin Joyner and nothing was called, resulting in a turnover. The Aggies came within two points after a steal out of Powell’s hands, but Elliott got one of his two tip-ins of the night and the Gauchos hung on with free throws from Harris to close this one.
“When they came out and tried to intentionally foul [Joyner], there’s no call, and then there’s a turnover; that was a big swing,” Williams said. “I’m just thankful that we hung on and with James’ turnover – I could have had a heart attack on that one.”