National television cameras scanned the Thunderdome crowd on Saturday night as a sold-out crowd of 6,000 fans awaited tip-off between the top two teams in the Big West. But once the game began, UCSB struggled offensively as Long Beach State used a 23-2 run to cruise to a 71-48 victory.
“We didn’t stay as resilient as you have to when you are playing a team of Long Beach’s athletic ability,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “I thought we were a little fragile out there. We didn’t stay fighting.”
The 49ers (14-6 overall, 7-0 Big West) cruised past UCSB (9-7, 4-2) and its 2-3 zone defense, shooting a blistering 58.7 percent from the field to remain in sole possession of first place in the conference. The Gauchos are currently tied for second place with UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton.
“They shot the hell out of [the ball],” senior forward Jaimé Serna said. “We started off well and we were right there with them, and it just didn’t happen for us.”
The Gauchos shot 35.1 percent as a team and scored a season-low 48 points, as senior captains and leading scorers Orlando Johnson and James Nunnally suffered through off nights, shooting a combined 5-for-22 from the field. Johnson finished with 10 points and Nunnally had a season-low five points. Freshman Alan “Big Al” Williams and senior center Greg Somogyi each scored a team-high 10 points for the Gauchos. Santa Barbara’s previous low was 50 points in a loss at Berkeley last month.
“Quite frankly we have to knock down shots and we have to take better care of the ball,” Williams said.
Four out of five Long Beach starters scored in double figures, led by senior guard Larry Anderson with 19 points. Senior guard Casper Ware poured in 14 points and a game-high five assists, and senior forward T.J. Robinson, the leading rebounder in the Big West, posted a double-double with 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
With 07:34 to play in the first half, sophomore guard Kyle Boswell hit a three-pointer to give the Gauchos a 21-18 lead — the last lead they would have in the game. Long Beach went 7-for-8 from the floor and ran off an 18-2 run to head into the halftime up 36-23.
“You just can’t let Long Beach get in transition,” Williams said of the Big West leading 49er offense.
Coming out of the locker room, it was more of the same struggles for the Gauchos. A layup from Ware and a three-pointer from Anderson crushed any hopes for a Gaucho run out of the locker room, as the 49ers continued their devastating run, extending their lead to 41-23 with 19 minutes left. UCSB was able to cut the deficit to 43-27 on a baseline dunk by Johnson with just under 18 minutes to play, but never got closer than that. Long Beach reached its biggest lead of the night at 65-34 on a layup from Anderson, before eventually winning 71-48.
“We just have to flush [this game] out,” Serna said. “What’s tough is that we want to play our best in front of a sell-out crowd, and then to come out and get blown out … You win some, you lose some.”
Santa Barbara will hit the road for four straight games, as the Gauchos play seven of their next eight away from the Thunderdome. UCSB will play at UC Davis and Pacific this weekend, and will return home next on Feb. 11 when it hosts UC Riverside in a game televised on PrimeTicket.