The UCSB men’s basketball team (20-4, 11-2 Big West) were back in The Thunderdome to kick off this week’s games as they hosted the UC Irvine Anteaters in a battle for the top spot in The Big West. Despite the two-point lead at halftime, the Gauchos were not able to come out with a win, dropping this contest 70-59.
“I thought our guys played really well, especially Jakov (Kukic), in the first half,” UCSB Coach JoePasternack said. “We ran out of steam in the second half. The difference in this game was rebounding just in the second half. It really hurt us.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
The last time these two teams faced each other was a fight until the end, and that was no different in tonight’s game. The lead changed five times in the first half alone with neither team pulling ahead by more than three points. However, in the last 10 seconds, the Gauchos made a key play to earn a five-point lead with two seconds left before the Anteaters made a last-second three pointer as the home team was up 35-33 at the end of the first.
Ajay Mitchell played a strong first half, leading the Gauchos with 15 points while also contributing a steal. Along with that, half of the Anteaters’ fouls were drawn by Mitchell. In his first career start, Jakov Kukic was second on the team in points as he tallied eight.
At the start of the second half, UC Irvine came out strong, grabbing the lead from the Gauchos early. Even with the Gauchos making five-of-seven baskets while holding the Anteaters to no baskets in the middle of the second, it wasn’t enough to come back in this contest. UCSB ultimately dropped this Big West game 70-59.
LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS
– Mitchell continued with his great game as he led the Gauchos with 25 points. Along with that, he added on two assists while shooting at 57 percent from the field.
– Miles Norris led the defensive efforts as he grabbed the most rebounds with eight while adding on eight points. Kukic registered eight points of his own while adding on two steals and two assists.
– Calvin Wishart helped control the Gauchos’ offensive efforts as he contributed five assists on the evening.
The Gauchos will hit the road as they make the trip to Riverside to take on the Highlanders of UC Riverside. Tipoff will be at 7 p.m. with a live stream available through ESPN+.
Kristen Keller is the associate athletic director for communications and digital strategy at UCSB.