Sunday, November 11, 2007

UCSB falls in season opener


PALO ALTO — UC Santa Barbara trekked north to get a gauge of where it is in the opening days of the 2007-08 men’s basketball season, engaging itself in the three-day Basketball Travelers Classic. The Gauchos got a good gauge of themselves in yesterday’s 67-48 loss to host Stanford in front of 7,329 as the tourney came to its conclusion.
Stanford is 3-0 and ranked No. 23 in the country.

Meanwhile, The Gauchos headed back to Santa Barbara with a 2-1 ledger, having defeated Harvard and Northwestern State by an average of 19.5 points per game in the first two games of the tournament.
Gauchos head coach Bob Williams, who once coached at nearby Menlo College in Atherton, couldn’t help but notice his club was beaten badly on the boards by a taller Stanford club, which won the rebound battle 45-28.
“We took some ill-advised shots,” Williams said. “That left a lot of rebounds available to them. I wanted our club to take quick shots, but only in transition.”
“We didn’t knock down enough open looks and make them pay,” Gauchos senior guard Alex Harris said. Harris, who led the Gauchos with 18 points, had a fine shooting weekend at Maples Pavilion. He racked up 51 points in the first two games and will take a 23.0 points-per-game average into Thursday’s preseason contest with Cal Poly-Pomona at UCSB. Harris, along with teammate Chris Devine, made the all-tournament team.
“Harris is a good player, even better than I thought he was,” Stanford head coach Trent Johnson said. “He can take a defender off the dribble to his left and to his right. He has a bright future.”
The Cardinal assigned forward Freddy Washington to guard Harris, who went 7-of-18 from the floor on Sunday.
“Harris is going to get his shots,” Washington said. “He’s a good player. UCSB is a good team. I was happy just to have an 11-point halftime lead.”
The Gauchos got in early foul trouble as the officiating crew cracked down early. The Cardinal was in the bonus at the 13:06 mark of the first half.
The Gauchos Nedim Pajevic and James Powell each fouled out.
“I kept hearing these annoying whistles in my ear,” Williams said. “We weren’t allowed to play the way we wanted to play. I’m sure both teams wanted the game to be more physical. I heard my players complaining, but we didn’t do a good job of adjusting and that’s my fault.”
Harris’ sweet trey from top of the key gave the Gauchos a 16-14 lead midway through the first half. On one sequence, a Gaucho was called for a player control foul on the offensive end. Williams could only put his hands on his head in disbelief.
Anthony Goods, who led the Cardinal with 23 points, including 20 in the first half, pulled back his dribble and buried a three-pointer for 22-16 Cardinal. A Harris banker closed the gap to four, but the Cardinal went on a 13-6 run to close the half.
UCSB came out of the gate in the second half with a 6-0 run. Devine, who had 14 points and eight rebounds, scored on a drive. Harris knocked down a jumper. But, a lob pass from Mitch Johnson to 7-foot Robin Lopez went for a dunk and Stanford had regained control 40-30.
While the Gauchos gained respect from the Cardinal, UCSB will gradually turn its focus to the Big West Conference season, which begins on Jan. 3 vs. Long Beach State. The Gauchos are the media’s pick to win it all.
“It doesn’t matter where we’re picked in the poll,” Harris said. “There are six or seven teams in the league who can win it all. If this Stanford game is any indication, we have a lot of work to do. We’ll have to start hitting the weights hard.”

GAUCHOS GEMS: Harris and Devine were 34-40 from the free-throw line in the three tourney games ... The Gauchos, playing good hustle defense, forced 66 turnovers total in the three games ... Williams begins his 10th season as head coach at UCSB.

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