After a long and eventful offseason, the UCSB men’s basketball team made its return to the hardwood with a 92-69 win over Fresno Pacific in its opening exhibition game.
Although it won’t be counted in the official record book, the victory was the first for UCSB under Head Coach Joe Pasternack, who was just hired in April after having been an assistant coach under Sean Miller at the University of Arizona for six years.
It was also the first time that Leland King II and Marcus Jackson saw action in a Gaucho uniform, as both transfer players started the game. Sophomore guard Max Heidegger had a game-high 26 points while making 6-of-9 three-point attempts.
King II, who played two years at Brown university and one at Nevada before transferring to UCSB, was never really able to find his comfort zone in his first start as the forward position.
He at one point averaged around 15 points and eight rebounds per game for Brown, yet ended the game 0-4 from the field on Saturday. He provided a lot of energy to start off the game however, fighting for position and rebounding the ball while making the extra pass, which was enough to get by as Heidegger came out and took over the offensive end.
Heidegger jumpstarted the Gaucho offense with his aggressiveness in the first quarter, scoring the team’s first seven points, tying his points per game average of last year in the first two minutes of the game. This gave UCSB an early 7-3 lead.
His great three point shooting paved the way for the team’s forwards and remaining guards to slash to the paint, and played a huge role in the 46-29 lead the Gauchos took into the second half.
The Gauchos played great basketball in the first twenty minutes. Having the focus to limit turnovers in an exhibition game is very difficult to do, and going into halftime the players had not only been very stingy with turnovers (coughing up 4 to Fresno’s 13) but also managed to shake the rust off and shoot 52.6 % from the field.
Other notable events that happened in the first half were the first points of the year for both Marcus Jackson and Gabe Vincent. Vincent getting a steal and layup in the first five minutes of the game was surely a heartwarming sight for many fans after his season ending knee injury last year.
The senior, who despite missing the last eight games of the season still led the team in points (295) and points per game (14.8), is surely looking to make his presence be felt once again as one of the top players in the Big West this year.
Marcus Jackson made his swiss army knife status be known early in this game, recording a steal, rebound, assist, and layup all in the first two minutes of the game. The Rice University transfer looks to bring a veteran mentality to the team, as he already had one of the most accomplished careers at his previous school.
He finished the first half with 12 points on 5-9 shooting, and didn’t need to play much of the second half because of the gap that he helped create.
The second half mostly consisted of building on the already expansive lead for UCSB. To the team’s credit they did manage to do that, however some of the negative signs of an exhibition game blowout began to seep in as the Gauchos turned the ball over more than twice as many times in the second half as they did in the first (10 to 4).
Again, it was Heidegger who pulled through for the Gauchos, knocking in 11 second half points and not letting any Fresno Pacific run start.
Another major contributor in the second half was Clifton Powell, who scored seven points on 2-3 shooting from behind the arc.
If the sophomore guard is able to continually shoot high percentages from behind the three point line, then his role within the offense should take a big leap from last year, especially because his length and height give him the capability to be one of the most versatile defenders on the team.
Overall, the exhibition game provided a lot of positives for the Gauchos. Although it was against a clearly under matched opponent, the team was able to incorporate its new players and system very well and look to have a deadly offense going forward.
Remaining healthy and eligible will surely guarantee a better year than last season, and could lead to the Gauchos making some big strides.
UCSB kicks off its season in the Thunderdome against North Dakota State on Saturday November 11 at 1 p.m.