Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gauchos dominate 6 in a row


Whether it was Alex Harris knocking down threes, James Powell gashing into the lane for acrobatic finishes or Chris Devine getting the Gauchos moving with defense, the UCSB Men’s basketball team kept on rolling Wednesday night with a 68-57 victory over Pepperdine in the Thunderdome.

The notorious Gaucho home-crowd-hecklers voiced, taunted and screamed their satisfaction with the now 8-1 ballers. That makes six victories in a row, the Gaucho’s best streak since the 1992-93 season. And it’s six in a row at home dating back to last season.
UCSB came out flat to open the game and fell behind 7-2 early. They then found their rhythm during a 14-2 run behind the outside shooting of Harris and Powell. Their first lead came on an inside turnaround jumper by Nedim Pajevic to make it 8-7 with 12:38 left in the first half. From there, the Gaucho’s advantage grew behind back-to-back threes by Powell and Harris.
Powell gained recognition for his outside shooting last week when he sealed the victory over UNLV with a buzzer beating three. For that one and the rest of his precision strokes—fifty-percent on the week—Powell was named co-Big West player of the week.
Pepperdine crept back within two with a mini-run of their own to bring the score to 19-17 with under seven minutes remaining in the half. But UCSB tightened it up on defense and went on a 13-2 streak to end the half 32-19.
The UCSB defense deserves credit as well for the team’s early season success. After the opening game against Northwestern State, the Gauchos have held all opponents under 70 points and allow a Big West best 62.3 points per game.
UCSB again slowly felt their way into the game coming out of the half, allowing Pepperdine to put in the first 6 points of the second half. Then junior forward Chris Devine displayed the Gaucho-style defense by grabbing a couple of steals and providing an inside presence to spark the Gaucho’s biggest run of the night. Before the Gauchos lifted their heel from Pepperdine’s throat, they had expanded their lead to 26 points at 58-32 with ten minutes remaining.
Pepperdine showed spouts of life against the relentless jeering of the home crowd. Junior guard Rico Tucker of Pepperdine had become a favorite of the hecklers. Tucker took back some pride with a ferocious breakaway dunk that appeared like a levitation illusion straight from David Blaine’s bag of tricks because Tucker stands at 5’9”.
But on the next Gaucho possession, Harris showed Tucker that nobody steals the thunder in the Thunderdome by making a sly move down the baseline and finishing strong in the faces of several defenders.
Harris finished with 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting, including 4 of 5 from behind the arc. Powell added 13 points and Devine had 10 points to go with his 3 steals and 7 rebounds.
The Gauchos will put their winning streak on the line Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome against Utah Valley State.

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