The UCSB men’s basketball team spent Thanksgiving weekend taking on the field at the World Vision Invitational in Normal, Illinois, and came away with mixed results.
The Gauchos easily handled Winston Salem State on Thursday night and Nicholls State on Friday, but fell hard against Illinois State on Sunday afternoon with the title on the line.
With the weekend’s results, UCSB improves to 3-4.
The action started Friday, when the Gauchos took on Winston Salem State. UCSB came out strong, taking a 34-23 halftime lead and never looking back against the hapless Rams.
Santa Barbara would cruise to a 71-58 win, buoyed by a Chris Devine double-double. It was the sixth-year senior forward’s second of the season, and he led the team in both scoring and rebounding with 12 points and 10 boards, respectively. UCSB utilized strong performances from all the starters in the win, with each getting at least nine points.
The next game would prove to be not much harder for the Gauchos, as their defense shined against the Nicholls State Colonels. In what was the best defensive performance of the young season, UCSB held Nicholls State to under 40 points, notching a 57-38 win and setting the stage for a big finale against host Illinois State.
Junior guard James Powell led the way against the Colonels, scoring 12 points — nine of which came on three-pointers — for a team-high in the low-scoring affair. Devine dominated the glass again with a game-high nine rebounds.
With two consecutive wins under their belts for the first time all season, the Gauchos were riding high into the Sunday finale against Illinois State. That would not last.
The Redbirds had no trouble with UCSB on their way to an 87-59 decimation of the Gauchos.
After taking a 10-8 lead nearly five minutes into the game on a Devine jumper, things took a turn for the worse. Illinois State rattled off nine consecutive points to take the lead and never looked back.
After UCSB cut the gap to five with 7:25 to play in the first half, ISU responded with a 17-4 run, and led at the half by a score of 42-26.
The second half would not be any kinder to the Gauchos, as the Redbirds nearly instantly increased their lead to over 20 points. UCSB would never cut the gap to under 18 points again, and ended up falling by 28 — nine more than the margin against #1 North Carolina.
Junior forward Jesse Byrd anchored the Gaucho effort — which lost Devine to injury late in the first half — with 17 points and eight rebounds. In his limited minutes, Devine tallied nine points.
Despite the loss in the finale, there are a lot of positives to take away from the weekend for UCSB.
“We just have things we need to get better at, like any other team at this point in the year,” Powell said. “There’s really no need to panic.”
The Gauchos next move on to face Utah Valley on Dec. 4 in Orem, UT. Their next home game will be Dec. 13 against Loyola Marymount. For now, Powell says, Santa Barbara is just hoping to improve in time for the all-important Big West season.
“We just want to try to get better at certain aspects of our game before conference starts,” he said.