The UC Santa Barbara men’s basketball team was able to break their three-game losing streak against the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Rainbow Warriors on Feb. 17. The Gauchos were down by 9 at the half, but a successful second half allowed the Gauchos to leave the Thunderdome with a 77-71 victory. The team now has a conference record of 7-8, which is good enough for No. 6 in the Big West.


Like most times this season when playing against a Big West opponent, the Gauchos got off to a slow start. The team shot just 33.33% from the field in the first half while shooting 30% from the three-point line. Additionally, there was little offensive aggression, as the team shot just 2 free throws in the entire period. Although UCSB jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game, things quickly went downhill. The Rainbow Warriors responded with 10 points of their own and were able to hold on for the rest of the half as the Gauchos entered halftime down by 9. The offense throughout the half was stagnant and shots refused to go into the basket. Players throughout the roster were ill or injured, but the Gauchos did not falter and refused to use this adversity as an excuse.

“I thought our guys really battled this afternoon. In college basketball, each season is a marathon. We have gone through peaks and valleys. We have had an unbelievably tough year through sickness and injuries, but we are never going to talk about the excuses. This is strictly about life. We told our guys today that you are going to have really, really hard times, but you have to find a way to dig down deep and fight. And fight for each other. I am just so proud that our guys battled back.”

In the second half, the UCSB offense looked like a totally different team. After scoring just 25 points in the first half, the Gauchos more than doubled their scoring output by putting up 52 second-half points. Via this offense, the team was able to tie the game at 46 with just 12 minutes remaining in the match. On this second-half run to tie the game and retake the lead, the team was led by junior guard Ajay Mitchell and senior guard Josh Pierre-Louis. For the game, Mitchell scored 23 points while dishing out 5 assists. Pierre-Louis scored 16 points for the Gauchos, 13 of which came in the final half. Both players were unstoppable in this time frame and were able to get to the basket at will. Mitchell especially seemed to be in his element as he put the team on his back and scored relentlessly.

“I’m just trying to win,” Mitchell said. “At the end of the game, I know I’m going to have the ball, and I’m going to have to make plays. I’m just worried about what I have to do at the end of the game.”

Mitchell’s dominance and free-throw shooting put the Gauchos over the hump in the final minutes. At one point, the junior guard scored 5 straight points for the Gauchos. The team shot 22 free throws in the second half, hitting on 15 of them.

In their next match, UCSB will try to extend their winning streak to 2 games. They will be taking on the UC Irvine Anteaters on the road on Feb. 22. In the first meeting between the teams UCI defeated the Gauchos at the Thunderdome by a score of 76-61. The game will tip-off at 8 p.m. and will be available to stream on ESPN+.

A version of this article appeared on p. 8 of the Feb. 22, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.