UCSB men’s basketball coach Joe Pasternack will tell anyone who will listen that there are no pushovers in the Big West Conference, even though an opponents record might indicate differently.
His players found out the hard way on Saturday night against visiting UC Davis.
Behind 21 points from senior point guard TJ Shorts and clutch 3-pointer by Joe Mooney, the Aggies stunned the Gauchos 61-57 in front of 2,316 in attendance at the Thunderdome.
Mooney, who finished with 13 points, cut loose with a 25-foot jumper from straight away with 1:24 remaining to break a 53-53 tie.
UCSB never caught Davis again, and fell to 17-6 overall and 6-3 in the Big West Conference.
“They are the reigning (conference) champions and TJ Shorts is the reigning Big West Player of the Year,” Pasternack said.
“He was the best player on the court, and we couldn’t guard him.”
UC Davis entered the game with a 7-14 overall record and a 3-4 mark in the Big West.
Unlike their first meeting against the Aggies on Jan. 17 in Davis, the Gauchos got off to a good start on Saturday night.
UCSB, which trailed 10-0 to open the January game in Northern California, led 8-2 after a Devearl Ramesey jumper at the 14:34 mark ofthe opening half, and 17-10 on a 3-pointer by Max Heidegger with 10: 42 before halftime.
That’s when things began to unravel for the Gauchos, who entered the game with a 10-1 record at home this season.
UC Davis went on to outscore UCSB by 13 points over the final 10-plus minutes of the first half and led 31-25 at halftime.
The Gauchos regrouped in the second half to lead 43-38 with 10:33 remaining in the game. But an 80 Aggies’ run turned the tide again, just like what transpired in the first half when the Gauchos had the momentum.
“A lot of people look at their record, the media, the fans, but they had the Player ofthe Year in TJ Shorts coming back this season, and he played like a Player of the Year tonight,” Pasternack said.
“We just couldn’t get stops, and they got a big offensive rebound with 1:50 to go, and then Mooney hit a huge 3 for them.
“They played like a veteran team.”
UC Davis finished off a two-game road sweep after its win at Cal Poly Thursday.
With the loss, UCSB fell 2 1/2 games behind Big West leader UC Irvine, which defeated Hawaii on Saturday night.