Nov. 21, 2005
The UC Santa Barbara men's basketball team trailed just once in its 67-65 win Monday night at the Thunderdome against University of San Diego (1-1), but after being up by 16 points twice in the game, the win came with a deep sigh of relief.
Torero guard Brandon Johnson had an opportunity to tie the game in the waning seconds, but he and the rest of the 1,794 on hand watched the runner roll off the rim and into senior guard Joe See's hands, securing the Gaucho victory.
"They really played well once they got down 16," UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. "The kids who came off the bench for them brought the life back into them. They battled to get back in it."
Senior guard Cecil Brown and sophomore guard Alex Harris led the Gauchos with 14 points apiece, and each came up with crucial baskets for Santa Barbara down the stretch. With the game knotted 62-62 at the 1:42 mark, Harris drove to his left to evade perimeter pressure, found himself at the bucket and finished a tough left-handed lay up for a 64-62 lead. After a made free throw by senior guard Joe See pushed the Guacho lead to three, Santa Barbara called Brown's number. Driving to his left, Brown pulled up at the elbow and elevated above the outstretched hand of San Diego forward Corey Belser to knock down the jumper with 30 seconds remaining on the clock.
"I saw the lane and I just took it," Brown said. "I like any shot I can get."
Down 67-62, San Diego answered right back on Nick Lewis' three from the top of the key to bring the Gaucho lead back to within two, but Johnson's shot didn't have the English the Toreros needed.
UCSB received major contributions once again from newcomers Chris Devine and Tom Garlepp. Devine, now in his sophomore season after sitting out the 2004-05 season with an injured knee, went for double-digits for the second straight game, registering 11 points and nine rebounds. Harris led the Gauchos on the glass, grabbing a career-high ten boards to register his first career double-double in a UCSB uniform. Garlepp, meanwhile, didn't miss a shot Monday night, hitting a three in the second half and nailing all four of his free throw attempts.
Coming out of halftime with a 36-30 lead, UCSB scored ten straight points to take what seemed to be a commanding 46-30 lead. San Diego turned up the pressure on defense though, forcing five Gaucho turnovers in just over four minutes of play to bring the deficit to 48-43 at the 11:25 mark.
"They were definitely aggressive on us. Coach told us though that we had to be the aggressors, so we did," Harris said. "We're not happy with the way we did it, but we'll take the win for sure."
The Gauchos may have bent, but they never broke, relying on their rebounding edge to keep San Diego's possessions short and unproductive. UCSB outrebounded USD 45-32 and outshot the Toreros 43.8% to 35.7%.
The Gauchos (2-0) will take to the road for the first time this season when they travel to North Carolina Friday to take on the defending national champions. Tip-off is slated for 5:30 p.m. pacific standard time.