With the Big West conference better than it ever has been, it takes 40 full minutes of solid effort to snag a win.
Saturday night against Cal Poly, the UCSB men’s basketball team did just that. The Gauchos (8-9, 2-3 Big West) got 44 points off, including a game-high 17 points from senior guard D.J. Posley.
“It feels good,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “It was much needed. Our backs were against the wall, it was a do or die game. I thought we played more consistently in both halves than we have in all of league.”
Posley’s performance absolutely dominated, and his scoring output was a new career best. He went 6-9 from the field and 5-6 from the charity stripe on the night, and came up huge with 11 points in the second half. Even more impressive were his seven boards and four assists, both team highs.
“His performance was perfect for what we need,” Williams said. “He got points in a lot of ways – hitting his shots, getting into the lane and sinking free throws. He also had a big rebounding and a big assist night as well.”
Posley was joined off the bench by sophomore guard Jordan Weiner, who was the Gauchos’ other double-digit scorer with 14 points. Weiner snagged 12 of his points in the first period, all of which came from three-point land.
“With Jordan (Weiner) getting 14 points and [freshman center] Greg Somogyi getting eight, we got 44 points off the bench,” Williams said. “That’s exceptional. I think its rare that you get 44 points from your bench and get 28 from your starters, but its great to see that our bench is starting to play better. It’s definitely something that helps us a lot. I’m not going to say that we anticipated 44 points, but it was something we were really happy to see.”
Cal Poly led the game early, and stretched it to 16-10 midway through the first half, but a trio of treys from Weiner in a three-minute stretch starting with 11:41 to go put UCSB on top 19-18. The Mustangs answered Weiner’s hot shooting with a deuce to go back up 20-19, but another bomb from Weiner helped Santa Barbara run ahead at 26-20. The Gauchos held onto their six-point lead until the break. William’s squad has led at the half in all five of their Big West matches.
“[In the first] four games in league we have led at halftime and we lost all four of those games,” Williams said. “We are trying to learn the types of things that it takes to play more consistently and fight against adversity in order to win more games.”
UCSB needed to come out of the locker room aggressive, which is something they had yet to do in their conference campaign. With Weiner leading the squad in the first half, Posley and Somogyi decided to take the reins in the second. The pair combined for 19 of the team’s 39 second-half points in a half that saw Santa Barbara shoot a blistering 52.0 percent. Somogyi was visibly amped up against the rival Mustangs, and he showed it most prominently with a thundering put-back dunk late in the game. Upon returning to the floor, he let loose with what Williams later called “the bellow from Budapest” right in Mustang Chaz Thomas’ face. Thomas then shoved Somogyi, which prompted freshman forward Jaime Serna to run off the SB bench and join the party. Somogyi was given an immediate technical for the taunt while Thomas and Serna were ejected.
“[Somogyi] got fouled pretty hard in the previous possession without getting the call. … He let go with a little bellow in his opponent’s face, which was mostly just a show of frustration,” Williams said. “More than anything, we were really glad to see Greg Somogyi play with a little fire. I’m not worried about [Serna’s ejection]. It was a reactionary thing. He jumped up to defend his teammate and thus got involved in the brouhaha, and just didn’t think about the consequences. That will definitely earn an ejection.”
After the scuffle, Somogyi received the full brunt of trash-talking from the Cal Poly fans, but he and the rest of the Gauchos weren’t fazed in the least, and closed out the game in style. Overall, UCSB shot 44.6 percent while holding the miffed Mustangs to an apocalyptic 38.2 percent night.
“I would say that the first half wasn’t quite as good, and the second half was substantially better [than previous games],” Williams said. “We’ve been very good in first halves so far in the conference, so it was good to see us playing more consistently in the second. We need to be able to carry this momentum into our games against Davis and Pacific this weekend so that we can continue to get better as the conference season goes on.”