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Defense Dominates for UCSB on Opening Weekend

Gauchos host Cal Poly Pomona in home-opener tonight at the Thunderdome.

The campus of Stanford University is fondly referred to as The Farm — a reference to the horse farm belonging to the school’s founder, Leland P. Stanford, upon which the university now stands. It was the site for the official tip-off of the UCSB men’s basketball  season. The Farm served as the spring ground for sowing the seeds of what is projected to be a harvest of success in Bob Williams’ 10th season as the Gauchos’ head coach.

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Michael Berger

Cue the Thunder

UCSB opens its home schedule at 7 p.m. Thursday when it hosts Cal PolyPomona at the Thunderdome. Six of the Gauchos’ next seven games are athome, with USF (Nov. 20), Montana State (Nov. 24) and UNLV (Nov. 27)next up.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for seniors age 55 and up, and $6 forchildren age 13 and under. Tickets are available one hour beforetip-off at the Thunderdome box office the day of the game and can bepurchased online.

All UCSB basketball games are broadcast live in Santa Barbara on KTMS990 and 1490 AM.

Led by pre-season Mid Major All-American senior Alex Harris  and fellow 2007 All Big West teammate, junior Chris Devine, Williams believes he has the nutrients for fertile soil. Last year’s all-Big West Freshman honorees, guards Justin Joyner  and James Powell, and senior stalwart Ivan Elliott  round out the starting five.

A newly implemented, up-tempo pressure defense designed to create points off of turnovers and fatigue the opposition by the end of games, demands that the Gauchos go nine deep in the rotation. D.J. Posley, the JUCO All-American from Chicago, and Nedim Pajevic, the senior red-shirt by way of Weber State and Serbia, are the first players off the bench with Beau Gibb  and Jordan Weiner  also rotating in.

Friday, in the first game of the Basketball Traveler’s Classic, the Gauchos drew the Demons of Northwestern State University from Louisiana’s Southland Conference. The round-robin tournament hosted by Stanford, also included Ivy League representative, Harvard. Santa Barbara’s persistent pressure defense wore down the very athletic, sharp-shooting Demons, and the Gauchos won the second half and the game, 92-71.

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Against Harvard on Saturday, the game played out much the same as the night before. Drew Housman, Harvard’s outstanding junior point guard from Camarillo, worked his wizardry through the first half to keep the Crimson close, but Harvard could not maintain the attack against the pressure defense that Gaucho fans will come to recognize this year as the core of Williams’ system. UCSB won going away, 79-61.

While Williams’ seeds were planted and growing fine, they ran into some considerably stronger stalks Sunday vs. Stanford. Very tall and very disciplined, Stanford was ranked 20th, 22nd or 23rd in the country at tip-off, depending on your choice of polls, and the Cardinal out-rebounded the Gauchos, 45-28. They also enjoyed the familiarity of the Pac-10 officiating crew, which had the Cardinal shooting 39 free throws to the Gauchos’ 9. Stanford, employing a packing defense that took advantage of its huge 6’8”, 7’ and 6’8” front line, dared the opponent to score from the outside. The Gauchos could not, over the course of the game, dropping the finale, 67-48. They left Palo Alto with a 2-1 win loss record.

The season is under way. It’s too early to buy crop futures, but the weather seems right, the ground has been tilled and the harvesting is about to begin.

Michael Berger is an attorney in Santa Barbara.

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