When a team shows up with two very different mentalities in two different halves of a game, all the coach and players can hope for is that their more productive minutes were enough for them to prevail. Unfortunately for the UCSB men’s basketball team, yet another woeful second half let CSUF climb back from a 13-point first period deficit to snag a 62-58 win in the Thunderdome Saturday night. The loss is the Gauchos’ (1-3 Big West, 7-9 overall) third in their first four Big West matches.
“We were very sloppy with the ball, we didn’t take care of it, and with all that we still had plenty of opportunities to win the game,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “You have to make some plays, and you have to make some shots down the stretch, and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line.”
The Gauchos started off the game extremely hot, with freshman forward James Nunnally grabbing an offensive board on the first possession and dishing to junior guard James Powell for a deep two. Santa Barbara then grabbed offensive rebounds on their next two offensive sets, with senior forward Chris Devine snagging a layup and Nunnally hitting a trey to capitalize on both extra opportunities. Powell capped off the run with a quick steal and a coast-to-coast finish to put UCSB up a lightning-quick 9-0.
“We’ve been trying to find what the best defense is for us to play and we haven’t found it,” CSU Fullerton Head Coach Bob Burton said. “It’s been just disastrous for us, and we thought we’d come in and try a zone tonight and that was disastrous. We’ve had three games now where we give up nine or 10 points before we even score.”
A few minutes later, junior guard Paul Roemer entered the game and immediately grabbed a steal and finish. Senior guard D.J. Posley then continued the Gauchos’ defensive strangling of the Big West’s highest scoring offense with a perfect anticipation steal and finish of his own to put the home squad up 16-5. The 11-point lead held for most of the first half, and Santa Barbara took a 37-30 lead into the break. The Titans lead the league averaging almost 74 points per game, but they looked completely out of place versus the fast-paced Gaucho defense. However, CSUF tipped back nine points off of Santa Barbara’s 11 first-half turnovers, which allowed their offense to recover.
“In the first half our turnovers led to points for them,” Williams said. “They [were] struggling a little bit and we were defending them well, and we gave them life with 11 turnovers in the first half. I thought that really hurt.”
Despite being the clearly dominant team in the first stanza, the Gauchos had the tables immediately turned on them in the second. With the conference’s leading scorer senior guard Josh Akognon leading them, Fullerton was surely expected to close the score, but nobody expected a 16-7 run in the first seven minutes that gave the Titans their first lead of the match.
Meanwhile, Santa Barbara’s big producers fell completely flat. Devine shot 4-7 and Powell went 5-11 while UCSB shot 53.6 percent overall and a blistering 42.9 percent from three point land in the first half, but the Gauchos’ two leaders combined for just 3-11 shooting in the second period. In total, Santa Barbara shot pathetically in the second 20 minutes, and only made five field goals in that span.
“I think it was a rough night for Chris [Devine],” Williams said. “The thing is, you can’t have your two veterans with 11 turnovers between them and expect to beat people. Maybe what I need to do is start a different group in the second half. In the other three games we’ve come out in the second half and laid an egg. You know, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It shows me how ready they are to start a game, but how difficult it is to sustain that and keep ourselves on that path.”
Although Fullerton climbed back in the match, Santa Barbara kept themselves in it until the closing seconds. With 2:17 to go, Fullerton led 60-58, and neither squad could find the net thanks to a plethora of missed shots and turnovers. Finally, with just 25 seconds to go, Posley pulled down a rebound and dished the ball to Powell to take up court. With a few seconds left, Powell blasted down the right side and into the lane for the tying layup, but a deft CSUF hand stripped Powell’s handle to seal Santa Barbara’s fate.
Simply put, the Gauchos weathered the storm of the league’s most imposing offense brilliantly despite allowing them 58 shots in the match. However, terrible second-half shooting left UCSB shy of a much-needed win.
“We missed a lot of very good open shots,” Williams said. “You’ve got to make shots to win games. Whether it be a layup, free throw or three-pointer, you’ve got to make shots. We didn’t have a guy step up and make a shot, step up and make a power move or get fouled and make two free throws. Those things didn’t happen down the stretch.”