The UCSB men’s basketball team looked as if it was going to win its third straight game — and then things took a turn for the worse. Santa Barbara committed 15 second-half turnovers on the way to a 75-69 loss at the hands of Cal State Northridge.
With the loss, the Gauchos fall to 7-11 overall with a 3-4 mark in the Big West. Northridge, meanwhile, snapped a seven-game losing streak and registered its first conference victory this season, bringing its record to 10-10 overall (1-7 Big West).
“I just felt like we imploded,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We’ve been pretty good in close games and our kids have made plays and stayed calm, and in this game we didn’t do those things. We imploded out there.”
Up 59-52, UCSB looked to be in control of the game and on its way to victory despite missing sophomore center Alan Williams. Northridge switched to a full court press, however, leading to 13 straight points and a 65-59 lead that Santa Barbara was unable to overcome.
A pair of sophomore forwards in Stephan Hicks and Stephen Maxwell fueled Northridge to victory. Maxwell led the Matadors with an impressive 27-point, 12-rebound night, while Hicks scored 24 points and recorded four steals. Northridge out-rebounded UCSB 43-31 and committed only 11 turnovers compared to the Gauchos’ 15.
“I thought [Northridge’s players] were warriors out there, coming back when they went down seven,” Coach Williams said. “When you’re 0-7 and you go down seven in that second half, you could implode a little bit. And they didn’t, they kept fighting and they kept in there.”
Without its leading scorer and rebounder in Big Al, UCSB relied on the play of freshman forwards Sam Beeler and Mitch Brewe to replace the production down low. While Brewe scored two points and grabbed four boards, Beeler had a breakout game with 13 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
“I think we’re getting what we can get out of them,” Coach Williams said. “They’re playing hard, they’re raw, they’re going to have positives, they’re going to have negatives; that’s part of growing up. Sam obviously put up some good numbers and shows he has good promise.”
Freshman forward Taran Brown led UCSB with 18 points on 4-9 shooting from behind the arc, becoming the school leader in single season three-pointers made by a freshman in the process. Junior guard Kyle Boswell had 15 points for the Gauchos and junior forward Keegan Hornbuckle registered a season-high nine points after missing most of the season due to injury.
“They out-rebounded us a little bit there. It was just a very physical game overall, I would say,” Beeler said. “When we had turnovers, we kind of got out of our groove I think, and that was hard to come back from and obviously that was very frustrating.”
Now the Gauchos must look to Saturday’s game when they will host new Big West member Hawaii. The Warriors fell 88-59 at Cal Poly last night and enter with a 10-9 record (4-4 Big West).
“We just know that they’re a big team,” Hornbuckle said. “Our big men are going to have to come out and play hard and keep playing hard like they’re doing.”
Hawaii started its tenure in the Big West on fire with three straight conference victories but have since dropped three of four. The Warriors have lost their last two games by a combined 40 points and are 0-3 in road conference games this season.
“We watch film. We’re as familiar with their players by now by watching film as we are with anybody in the league,” Coach Williams said.
Saturday’s game against Hawaii is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. at the Thunderdome. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.
A version of this article appeared on page 4 of January 25th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.