Nov. 15, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Playing without injured senior guard Alex Harris, UC Santa Barbara needed someone to step-up in Thursday night's game against Cal Poly Pomona and sophomore guard James Powell answered the call, scoring a career-high 24 points as the Gauchos cruised to a 75-56 home win over the Broncos.
Powell struggled with his shooting as UCSB (3-1) opened the season last weekend with two wins in three games at the Basketball Travelers Classic in Palo Alto, Calif. On Thursday against NCAA Division II Cal Poly Pomona (0-1), he missed his first shot, a three-point attempt, and then made four of his next six, including three of four from three-point range, as the Gauchos compiled a 39-22 halftime lead. The Pomona native remained hot in the second half and finished 8-of-13 overall and 4-of-7 from beyond the three-point arc. He also made all four of his free throw attempts for his 24 points.
"I was comfortable to be back home playing," Powell said. "Even at shootaround this afternoon, the guys were just looser and more at ease. It was definitely nice to play on our own floor. I felt good early. I'm used to facing real strong ball pressure in practice every day, so when I wasn't seeing it tonight I kind of got going early."
After the Broncos scored the first two points of the game on a jumper by Larry Gordon, Powell made the first of his four three-point baskets and the Gauchos never trailed again. Leading 28-19, UCSB finished the half on an 11-3 run to take a 39-22 edge at the break. The lead never fell below 13 in the second half and expanded to 22 at one point, 66-44 with 6:11 to play.
Santa Barbara played the game without Harris, who is averaging 23.0 points per game. The senior injured the thumb on his left hand in practice on Wednesday and is listed as day-to-day.
Senior forward Ivan Elliott gave the Gauchos a scare midway through the first half when he left the game in pain, holding his right hand. He went to the locker room, got his hand taped and returned to play nine minutes in the second half.
Another senior forward, Nedim Pajevic, had his best overall game as a Gaucho. The transfer from Weber State made both of his field goal attempts, including a three-point basket, and six of his free throws, to finish with 11 points. He also had game-highs of eight rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots.
"Ned really had a good feel tonight," commented UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "He had a nice stroke from the field and the line, rebounded hard and passed the ball exceptionally well. There was never any question about his ability to pass the ball. Ned has such a good feel and touch when he passes and that showed tonight.
Cal Poly Pomona was led by forward Larry Gordon who made 6-of-11 field goal attempts and all nine of his free throw attempts for 22 points. Austin Swift finished with 11 points and Isaac Waters added 10.
Overall, UCSB shot 52.4%, including 50.0% (11-of-22) from three-point territory. The Gauchos were also outstanding from the free throw line at 87.0%, 20-of-23.
Santa Barbara returns to action on Tuesday, Nov. 20, when it hosts the University of San Francisco in a 7:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome.