The UCSB men’s basketball team raced to an 81-61 win over Loyola Marymount at the Thunderdome on Saturday night. The Gauchos never trailed while piling up their highest point total this season. Chris Devine led the way with 15 points and James Powell added nine of his 14 in the second half.

The Gauchos, who have won four of their last five games, improved to 5-4 on the season. The Lions dropped to 0-9.

UCSB moved the ball exceptionally well in the game, recording a season-high 23 assists.

“I was happy with our team’s ball movement tonight,” head coach Bob Williams said. “We played very unselfish basketball in this game and I’m pleased with our 23 assists.”

UCSB held short-handed LMU to only 26 first-half points with tough defense. The Lions were also playing without their top scorer and rebounder, Vernon Teel, who is out with a broken right foot.

Devine, who sat out the Gauchos’ last game against Utah Valley with a sprained ankle, tallied nine of his 15 points in the first half. UCSB, which attempted 17 three-pointers against the Lions’ zone defense in the first half, led 35-26 at the break.

UCSB had its biggest lead, at 71-49, with 4:18 remaining in the game when Paul Roemer hit a free throw. For the game, the Gauchos made just 13-21 from the line.

The Gauchos shot 46.9 percent for the game, but nailed a hefty 61.9 percent in the second half. LMU, meanwhile, was limited to 40.8 percent for the game, including 34.8 percent in the first half.

Junior forward Jesse Byrd once again led the Gauchos in rebounds with nine in just 17 minutes of play. He also had eight points. Freshman Jaimé Serna was 4-of-5 from the field and had eight points to go with five rebounds. Roemer and fellow guard D.J. Posley each had five of the team’s 23 assists.

For LMU, LaRon Armstead scored 16 points and collected seven rebounds while sharp-shooter Corey Counts scored 14, including three three-pointers. Ashley Hamilton returned to the lineup from an injury, recording eight points and three rebounds.

The Gauchos play Weber State on Wednesday in Ogden, Utah.

Bill Mahoney is UCSB‘s assistant athletics director.