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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 7:54 am | Fair 42º

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Harris and Powell Lead Gauchos in 75-60 Romp

25 free throws and 10 3-pointers against Cal Poly fuel UCSB’s 2nd straight Big West win.

Even 28 percent first-half shooting couldn’t stop UCSB on Saturday night in San Luis Obispo, because the Gauchos can do two things very well: hit their free throws and fill it up from behind the arc. That combination was more than enough in a 75-60 rout of Cal Poly.

Alex Harris, Ivan Elliott and James Powell went seven-of-12 from three-point range, and Harris sank all six of his free throws to establish a 33-24 first-half lead when little else was dropping for UCSB. With the win, the Gauchos improve their season record to 14-4, 3-2 in Big West Conference play.

Fortunately, little was clicking for Cal Poly either. Its potentially dangerous outside attack was anything but as Dawin Whiten (2-7), Chaz Thomas (0-6) and Trae Clark (4-11) all had cold nights on what has been a cold season for the Mustangs. They slip to 1- 4 in the Big West, 6-11 overall and no one averages in double figures.

“We know they’re a better shooting team than that,” Gauchos head coach Bob Williams said of the Mustangs. “Whitin is a good shooter, and so is Clark and some others. They’re not taking bad shots. It’s unexplainable why they’re struggling so much with their offensive confidence.”

UCSB’s point producers, Harris and Powell are having no such problems.

Powell ended with 20 points for the second game in a row, canning three of six from deep, nine of 10 from the line, and contributing five rebounds and five nice assists.

Harris, the team’s senior leader, had a season-high 31, going five of nine from outside and 10 of 12 from the stripe.

“I felt great tonight,” a happy Harris said. “It’s a tough place to play. It’s loud and this is sort of a rivalry game. Their students are live for 40 minutes. Their band is live for 40 minutes. They (Cal Poly) are in kind of a slump right now, but they can blow up, and I’m glad we got the win.”

The game was never in jeopardy as UCSB maintained a 10- to 18-point lead throughout the second half, lighting up a bit from the floor as Cal Poly smoldered. The win was UCSB’s second-straight, and it maintains the momentum generated in a crucial win over Cal State Fullerton one week ago, after two tough losses to Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine.

“Northridge was a tremendous blow, and it carried over down at Irvine,” Williams noted. ”Our play at Fullerton was very big emotionally for us, and with a win here, it feels like we’re going in the right direction.

"We outrebounded them tonight by nine and we’re getting tougher inside. We’re sharing the ball and taking better shots. We’re finding our way.”

The “way” leads to two big conference games at the Thunderdome, Thursday against Pacific and Saturday against UC Davis. UCSB is highly rated in mid-major polls, but it’s these league games that will define a success.

“It’s my last year,” said Harris. “So I’m just trying to enjoy every game.”

A pumped up Event Center crowd , Harris’ velvet touch on offense, and the highly charged Gaucho defense could make it memorable for all concerned.

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