Dec. 28, 2006
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Alex Harris scored a career-high 32 points, including 20 in the second half and Ivan Elliott had his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds as UC Santa Barbara opened Big West Conference play with a 73-65 win over visiting UC Riverside Thursday night.
Forward Glenn Turner, playing in just his third game since returning from a hernia, also played a decisive role in the victory with eight points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots in just 19 minutes.
UCSB (9-3 overall, 1-0 in the Big West) jumped out to a 10-0 lead less than three minutes into the game, but UCR (3-9 overall, 0-1 in the Big West) responded with a 17-5 run to take a 17-15 lead with 10:28 remaining in the first half. In all, there were 10 lead changes in the first 20 minutes and the half ended in a 34-34 tie.
The lead see-sawed for much of the second half as well and until Harris made a three-point basket with 10:07 left, giving the Gauchos a 53-46 lead, neither team led by more than four points. With UCSB up 55-49, Turner made a lay-up to give his team its biggest lead of the second half, 57-49. After a three-pointer by UCR forward Henrik Thomsen, Harris made another three to make it 60-52 Santa Barbara. At that point, the Highlanders went on a 10-2 run that was capped by a Dedrick Bates three-pointer, to tie the score at 62-62. Following a pair of Gaucho misses and a turnover, UCR had the ball and a chance to take the lead with 3:10 remaining.
With 2:53 to play, Thomsen missed a three-point attempt from the corner and Elliott collected the rebound. On the offensive end, Harris rebounded his own miss and was fouled by Larry Cunningham. He made a pair of free throws to give UCSB a 64-62 edge. After a Cunningham missed another shot in the lane, Elliott came down with another rebound. With 1:31 remaining, Turner made a lay-up off of a perfect baseline feed from Justin Joyner to give the Gauchos a 66-62 advantage.
UCR's Thomsen missed another three-point attempt with 1:16 to go, Turner rebounded and immediately got the ball to Harris, who was fouled by Bates. He made one of two free throws, extending the lead to five, 67-62. On the other end, the Highlanders committed a turnover and it was Harris again who wound up with the ball. Once more he was fouled and made one of two free throws to give UCSB a 68-62 edge. With 26 seconds to play, Justin Bell drilled a three-pointer from above the key to narrow the gap to 68-65, but Harris and Cecil Brown combined to make five of six free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
"It doesn't surprise me that the game was as close as it was," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "They are very well coached and they play very hard. I thought we did some good things tonight, but it was difficult for us to sustain anything and that's a credit to them. I also thought that Alex (Harris) was fantastic tonight. He really picked-it-up when we needed him in the second half. Ivan (Elliott) also played one of his best games and he is getting better every day. It was also great to see Glenn (Turner) play as long and as well as he did. When he is playing like he did tonight, he can really change a game."
In addition to 32 points, Harris finished with six rebounds, all in the second half. Joyner had eight points and a team-high five assists. Forward Chris Devine, the team's second-leading scorer, struggled against the Highlanders, finishing with just seven points and two rebounds. UCR was led by Justin Bell who had 17 points and seven assists before fouling out. Bates came off the bench to go for 15 points and nine rebounds and Cunningham had 14 points. As a team, the Gauchos made 45.8% of their shots while the Highlanders made 43.3%. Each team committed just nine turnovers.
UCSB returns to the Thunderdome on Saturday, Dec. 30, when it hosts Cal State Fullerton in a 7:00 p.m. game. The Titans won their Big West-opener at Cal Poly Thursday night, 99-91, and will bring a 10-2 record into the game.