The highly anticipated Blue-Green rivalry matchup against the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Mustangs resulted in the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos sealing their ninth conference win of the season with a final score of 68-62, improving to 18-3 and solidifying UCSB’s No. 1 spot in the Big West tournament.
Neither the Mustangs nor the Gauchos scored points in the first minute of the game. Senior forward Miles Norris was the first to score by knocking in a 3-point jump shot at the 18:50 minute mark.
The beginning 8 minutes of the game’s first half consisted of a back-and-forth battle between the rivals, as the largest deficit until that point was when the Gauchos were up by 4 points at the 12:50 minute mark. After a turnover by junior center Bryan Penn-Johnson of the Mustangs, the Gauchos began to gain momentum for the rest of the first half as they were up 8 points against the Mustangs, which was the largest deficit of the entire game.
With the score at 35-27, the Gauchos ended the first half on top of the Mustangs with Norris leading the team, having scored 10 points.
Coming out of the locker room, the Gauchos continued to maintain their lead against the Mustangs. However, no classic rivalry game ends without a fight.
Despite being down by double digits just seconds into the second half, the Mustangs battled their way back into the game. After a 3-point jump shot by junior guard Brantly Stevenson, the Mustangs managed to tie the game up at 52-52 with just under 6 minutes left in regulation.
From that point, it was a classic back-and-forth battle between the rivals. With just under 2 minutes left in the game, a foul by Gaucho senior guard Josh Pierre-Louis sent Cal Poly graduate small forward Chance Hunter to the free throw line, resulting in the Mustangs being down by just 1 point.
After a quiet first-half performance with just 2 points, sophomore guard Ajay Mitchell came up big for the Gauchos in the second half, scoring nearly half of his points in the last 2 minutes of the game.
A game-changing layup and drawn foul resulted in a successful 3-point opportunity for Mitchell.
The Mustangs’ battle back into the game was short lived, as they managed to put up just 2 points after Hunter’s successful free throw attempt in the last 1:41 of the game.
The Gauchos came out on top for the second time this season in the Blue-Green rivalry matchup, with Norris’ 18 points and Mitchell’s 16 points leading the team to victory.
The No. 1 seeded Gauchos are looking to extend their lead in the Big West this weekend as they head to Cal State Northridge to take on the 5-18 Matadors, who lost their previous matchup against the Gauchos 52-72 in mid-January earlier this year.