On a night where the Gauchos could not hold onto the ball, they also allowed an undefeated record to slip out of their reach. After committing a season-high 23 turnovers with 15 giveaways in the first half alone, the UC Santa Barbara men’s basketball team fell 79-68 to the visiting Santa Clara Broncos Saturday night at the Thunderdome, halting a four-game win streak that began on opening night.

“We didn’t take care of the ball, played way too much one-on-one and had a poor defensive effort,” Head Coach Bob Williams said.

As evidenced by Coach Williams’ breakdown of the game, UCSB’s struggles were not limited to turnovers off sloppy ball handling and forced entry passes.

A physical Santa Clara defense lured the Gauchos into a pattern of isolation plays, leading to a slew of contested jumpers that gave the home team only eight baskets at the half.

On the opposite end, Santa Clara (4-3) rattled off an 8-0 run with under four minutes left in the first before a layup by freshman guard Chris Brew cut the score to 42-29 heading into the locker room.

“It feels really good to finally get out there and play,” Brew said, following a 5-for-5 performance in his first extended action of the season. “[Not redshirting] was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life.”

Brew, who finished with 12 points to lead Santa Barbara, was one of the few bright spots on an off-night for all of UCSB’s normally reliable wing and post players.

Sophomore guard/forward Orlando Johnson, who had been averaging a team-high 19.5 points per game leading up to the Santa Clara match, was held to 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting while fellow wingman James Nunnally finished with nine while going 2-for-9 from the field. The Gaucho’s frontcourt fivesome did not fare much better, combining to put up almost as many turnovers (14) as points (16).

“I’m not pleased with any one of the five bigs, and I don’t feel like any one of the wings gave us very much tonight,” Williams said.
The only player besides Brew to have an efficient game on paper was junior guard Justin Joyner. Still recovering from a preseason ankle injury, the floor general had a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and three steals in a season-high 17 minutes.

Though his presence did well to settle down an anxious Gaucho squad in the first half, the Broncos maintained a double-digit advantage all the way until the 2:30 mark in the second when Nunnally drained his second three of the night to make it 68-59.

“I feel like when we went on runs it was really tough for us,” Joyner said. “We couldn’t get stops, so every time we made a shot [the score] was right back to where it was before.”

Though UCSB tried to wage a comeback in the waning minutes, it was too little too late. Santa Clara went to the line 16 times after Nunnally’s trifecta to preserve its nine-point lead until the final buzzer.

Now with a 2-1 record against the West Coast Conference — Santa Barbara’s last two wins came against San Francisco University and Loyola Marymount — the Gauchos will complete their tour through the WCC at home this Saturday against San Diego State (4-2), the former team of UCSB junior transfer Jon Pastorek.

With their hot streak at an end, the Gauchos will have to regroup from a loss for the first time this season, looking to take better care of the ball and play with the same physicality that allowed Santa Clara to dominate play on an unfamiliar floor.

“We have to take [the loss] as disrespect,” Joyner said. “Someone came into our house and beat us, and that can’t happen again.”