The UCSB men’s basketball team (27-7, 15-5 Big West) played in their second Big West Championship game in three seasons, taking on the Cal State Fullerton Titans. When the final buzzer went off, it was the Gauchos who were on top as they won The Big West Championship with a score 72-62.
“I am just so happy for our players to be able to experience March Madness; it is the greatest spectacle in all of sports, in my opinion,” said Gauchos Head Coach Joe Pasternack. “With the adversity our guys went through this season: losing two of our top six players due to injury and losing three straight games because of that. The way our guys responded to that shows so much character and competitive spirit.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Gauchos came out ready to play as Miles Norris knocked down the first basket of the night with a three-pointer. Despite UCSB striking first, it was Cal State Fullerton who had the lead at the first media timeout. The Gauchos chipped away at the lead the Titans’ built, taking a one-point lead with seven minutes left in the first. By the time halftime hit, the lead changed 10 times but in favor of the Gauchos as they were up 33-31.
At the start of the second half, Cal State Fullerton came out strong, scoring six points to the Gauchos’ two, taking the lead early on. However, it wasn’t for long as UC Santa Barbara battled back to take the lead. Once the Gauchos regained the lead, they never let it go as Ajay Mitchell and Calvin Wishart made key shots to keep the Gauchos in a good position. By the end of the second half, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos were the 2023 Big West Champions, taking down the reigning champs Cal State Fullerton 72-62.
LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS
– Mitchell was the leading scorer in tonight’s game as he earned Big West Championship MVP, putting up 20 points in this game. Along with that, he added on four assists and four rebounds to round out his time in Henderson.
– Following close behind him in points was Wishart, whose three-pointer towards the end of the second half gave the Gauchos the much-needed momentum to solidify their win in this game. He ended the game with 16 points while grabbing seven boards and a team-high two steals.
– Cole Anderson had a phenomenal night from beyond the arc, shooting at 75 percent. This was good enough to end the game with 12 points while adding on four rebounds.
– Norris was the last Gaucho to finish with double-digit points, securing 10 in his final Big West Championship.
The Gauchos have now punched their ticket to March Madness, which begins next week. The team will get together to watch The Selection Show beginning at 3 p.m. Check back for updates as the team learns who they will play in the first round and at which location.
Kristen Keller is the associate athletic director for communications and digital strategy at UCSB.