By GISELLE LEWIS
Welcomed by the home crowd of the Santa Barbara faithful, the UCSB men’s basketball team (11-2, 2-0 Big West) lit off fireworks during this New Year’s Eve game as the Gauchos took down the UC San Diego Tritons in The Thunderdome.
An early lead for the Gauchos turned into a battle for supremacy against the Tritons. But the second half of the game saw UCSB solidify its ranking as the No. 1 team in The Big West, with the scoreboard reading 83-61 in favor of the home team.
The Gauchos won the tipoff and garnered early momentum.
Racking up an early lead, it seemed like the Gauchos had their wish. But the UC San Diego men weren’t going down without a fight. Despite the absence of their star player Bryce Pope, the Tritons presented a strong front.
The Tritons caught a lead on the Gauchos with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. But the Gauchos didn’t let them run with it, holding the game within a six-point differential for the remainder of the period. The sound of the buzzer left the score at 43-40 in favor of San Diego.
After regrouping at halftime, both teams locked in, eager to prove their dominance. The competition was tight — no team could generate a lead greater than six points for the first 10 minutes of the second half until the Gauchos shifted into high gear. They increased their lead to a 21-point advantage over the Tritons with Ajay Mitchell at the helm.
The Gauchos’ efforts in the second half delivered a crowd-rousing victory in the home stands and a final score of 83-61 reinforced UCSBs status as a formidable Big West opponent heading into 2023.
Mitchell had another amazing night for the Gauchos, registering his fourth straight 20-plus point performance as he notched 23 points. He also managed a team-high six assists while also securing three steals.
Andre Kelly and Calvin Wishert both came up big for the Gauchos, each earning 11 points in this victory. Kelly was able to lead the team in rebounds with seven while Wishart helped distribute the ball, recording four assists.
Miles Norris also asserted his role on the court, ending the game with 13 points and six assists.
Later this week, the Gauchos will hit the road and head North for the Blue-Green Rivalry, taking on Cal Poly for their third game of Big West. This Saturday afternoon game will begin at 1 p.m. in San Luis Obispo with a live stream available through ESPN+.
Giselle Lewis is the head writing intern working for UCSB Athletic Communications.