The UC Santa Barbara Men’s Basketball team (7-5) hit the court in the SRC Arena as they faced the Highlanders of UC Riverside in another Big West game. This entire game was a close fight between these two teams, but at the end, it was UC Riverside who came out on top as UC Santa Barbara dropped their second Big West game of the season with a score of 77-79.
FROM HEAD COACH JOE PASTERNACK
“I thought our guys competed tonight. But at the end of the day, giving up 50 percent on defense has been our Achilles’ heel and we need to fix that.”
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Gauchos were the first team on the board, but it didn’t keep the Highlanders at bay for long. Despite the early basket, UC Riverside came out strong, taking the lead and extending it to five. Over the course of the next four minutes, the Gauchos chipped away at the Highlanders as Yohan Traore crashed the boards and made key shots, which helped his team secure the one-point lead by the time there was a timeout on the floor. Even with the extended lead, Riverside’s baskets from beyond the arc kept them close to the Gauchos as they ultimately took the lead yet again. That’s when Ben Shtolzberg and Ariel Bland sparked a fire in the Gauchos that allowed them to go on a 7-0 run, reclaiming the lead late in the first half while causing the Highlanders to burn a timeout. With an electric block by none other than Traore and a three-pointer from Cole Anderson, the Gauchos wrapped up the first half on top with a score of 37-34.
These two gritty teams continued battling each other as the last 20 minutes began. Halfway through the second half, the lead changed seven times as neither team could stay on top for long. Once the five-minute mark rolled around, it was UC Riverside who was on top, and the Gauchos needed to dig deep to win this game. With three minutes left in this game, Mitchell made a key three-pointer to tie the game heading into this final stretch. Even though the Gauchos made one final push at the end, it wasn’t enough as UC Santa Barbara dropped their second-straight conference game 77-79.
LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS
- Ajay Mitchell had one of the best offensive performances in Gaucho history. He put up a new career-high of 39 points, which ties the school record for the most points scored in a game. Along the way, he also tied his career-high for made free-throws with 14 while adding on two assists, a steal and a block.
- Yohan Traore contributed his third-straight game with double-digit points, putting up 12 on the night. He also led the team in rebounds with nine.
The Gauchos will return to their home court for their first Big West game of 2024 against the UC San Diego Tritons. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 4, inside The Thunderdome. For those who can’t make it to Santa Barbara, a live stream will be available through ESPN+.
Mitchell Ties School Record With 39 Points Against UC Riverside was originally published at https://ucsbgauchos.com/news/2023/12/30/mens-basketball-mitchell-ties-school-record-with-39-points-against-uc-riverside.aspx.
Photos courtesy UCSB Athletics.