The UC Santa Barbara men’s basketball team took home an end of the season victory against the University of Hawai’i to secure a share of the regular season Big West title. By tying UC Irvine for the regular season title, the Gauchos were able to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Big West tournament. This is critical for the Gauchos, as their only way into March Madness is winning the Big West tournament outright.
The Gauchos secured their win Saturday night behind a route from the start to finish against conference rivals, Hawai’i by a score of 81-61.
Ten minutes into the game, the Gauchos developed a solid 10-point lead 23-13. The paint defense of the Rainbow Warriors was exposed as 12 of the first 23 points were scored in the paint by the Gauchos.
By the end of the first half, the Gauchos had a commanding 46-26 lead, behind senior guard Calvin Wishart’s 15-point first half. Not far behind him was senior center Andre Kelly and sophomore guard Cole Anderson with 8 points apiece.
The second half remained much the same for the Gauchos, keeping a sizable lead for much of the second half.
Senior guard Josh Pierre-Louis got it going early in the second half scoring the 5 of the Gauchos first 7 points after the break. The scoring was well distributed throughout the second half, with the Gauchos sophomore guard Ajay Mitchell sharing the rock around to his teammates.
Mitchell finished the game with a double-double of 10 points, 11 assists and 5 rebounds. Senior forward Miles Norris and Kelly joined Mitchell in that category, picking up double-doubles of their own. Norris gathered 10 rebounds and finished with a team-high 18 points. Kelly managed to grab 10 rebounds and add 12 points in the paint.
In the 81-61 victory, Anderson and Wishart provided the hot hand from behind the arc, shooting a combined 7-11, attributing to a combined 29 points in total.
Late in the game, the crowd got to its feet as Head Basketball Coach Joe Pasternack gave each of the senior starters a sendoff with late game substitutions. Pasternack embraced each of the seniors, Kelly, Pierre-Louis, Norris and Wishart, as each were making their way off the Thunderdome court for the last times in their career.
Leading the charge to end the season was Mitchell, who averaged the most points per game at 15.7 and assists per game with 5.1. Norris followed right behind Mitchell with 14.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. Anderson shot the lights out this season producing a three-point shooting percentage at 41.7 to lead the team.
The team’s hard work did not go unnoticed, as Pasternack went on the microphone at the end of the season finale to encourage the crowd to stay. Saying that the team was not able to play with the fans in the COVID-19-riddled year, he wanted the crowd to enjoy the ceremony with the team. Pasternack led the crowd into a chant of three “Go Gauchos” to officially tie a knot on the regular season.
The Gauchos look to go dancing in March Madness but will first have to take on the Long Beach State Beach. UCSB is 2-0 against the Beach this season. The matchup will take place March 9 at 6 p.m. at the Dollar Loan Center in Henderson, Nevada where they will start their quest for the Big West Championship.
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