Calvin Wishart scores a season-high 16 points, but Josh Pierre-Louis joins Gauchos’ lengthy injured list
UC Santa Barbara’s Miles Norris earned two basketball milestones on Monday, but the Gaucho team just kept dropping like a rock.
Cal State Fullerton rocked the Gauchos with their third-straight defeat and fourth in the last six games, 74-60, at the Thunderdome.
Norris’ double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds pushed him over the top as the 12th Gaucho in history to surpass 1,000 points and 500 rebounds for a career.
“It feels good to have, but I’m a little more worried about the game tonight,” he said after increasing his career totals to 1,007 points and 504 rebounds. “I’m a little frustrated about the loss. That’s what I’m worried about.”
A players-only meeting was held after the team’s lack-luster performance, and Norris said there would be more to come.
“Nobody likes to lose,” he said. “After a loss, guys are a little mad.
“But we’re going to get together as a team tomorrow and talk … Get together as players, get together with the coaches and figure out what we need to do to bounce back and get ready for Long Beach (on Thursday) and the games ahead of us.”
The losing streak has dropped UCSB (20-7, 11-5 Big West Conference) into a tie for third place with Hawai’i (20-8, 11-5). UC Irvine (20-8, 13-3) remained alone in first while UC Riverside (19-10, 12-5) took sole possession of second.
Fullerton (17-12, 11-6) moved within a half-game of the Gauchos with their fifth-straight victory.
“They went to Hawai’i and won … they beat Irvine,” UCSB coach Joe Pasternack said. “They’re a good team. But this is about us right now.
“We have to dig ourselves out of a hole … We’re in a bad place right now.”
The Gauchos showed some promise during the first five minutes. Calvin Wishart made a three-pointer and a layup off Norris’ pass. A runner by Ajay Mitchell put UCSB ahead 11-8.
But the lead could have been more. They missed three of their first five foul shots, and one of the makes was banked in by Andre Kelly.
Threes by Latrell Wrightsell and Max Jones served as bookends to a 9-0 run that put the Titans ahead for good at 17-11.
A pair of threes by Cole Anderson were the bookends of a hollow, 8½-minute stretch in which UCSB’s only other basket was a put-back by Kelly. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Anderson, meanwhile, missed his other six attempts from three. He’s made just 4-of-23 three-pointers in the last six games after having made 14-of-25 in the previous five games.
“Cole is a great shooter,” Pasternack said. “He’s taking great shots. Great shots. Open shots.
“He’s getting open shots and not making them right now.”
The Titans, meanwhile, got open threes and layups while staying one step ahead of UCSB’s man-to-man defense. The Gauchos forced only three turnovers — a season-low — and tied another low-water mark by making only one steal.
John Mikey Square’s layup boosted Fullerton’s lead to 32-18 with 5:21 left in the first half.
The Gauchos got their deficit back into single deficits on a dunk by Norris off Anderson’s driving pass and a reverse layup by Wishart. But they missed their last three shots of the period and trailed 39-28 at halftime.
UCSB’s depth took another hit when starting guard Josh Pierre-Louis took a blow to the back late in the first half. He came out of the game for good with 11:56 remaining after having played only 14 minutes.
“We’re going to get him examined and see what’s up,” Pasternack said.
He was already missing starting guard Ajare Sanni and top reserve forward Koat Keat Tong to knee injuries.
“My gut feeling is K.K. is out for the year and Ajare, we’ll wait to see what happens,” Pasternack said. “He’s working with our rehab people and we’ll wait and see. I don’t have a definite answer on him.
“But you can’t control injuries, you can’t control fatigue, you can’t control any of that. All we can control is when you’re on the court, that you compete at a championship level.”
They didn’t do that during the first half when the Titans out-shot by the Gauchos 55.2% to 37.5% and out-rebounded them 18-13.
“We held them to 38% in the second half, but we’re not playing defense for 40 minutes,” Pasternack said. “In the first half at Riverside, I thought we really defended. In the second half, they shot 74%.
“That is our Achilles heel right now, being able to do it for 40 minutes.”
Opponents have also discovered the best strategy to stalling UCSB’s offense: double-team its high-scoring point guard, Ajay Mitchell. The Titans held Mitchell to 1-for-4 shooting in the first half, and the sophomore star didn’t even attempt a shot in the second half. His final total of three points were 13 below his season average.
“Ajay was doubled, and I thought he made some great passes,” Pasternack said. “I think point guards are judged by their assists to turnovers … He had eight assists to three turnovers.”
He would’ve had many more assists if UCSB had shot better than its final percentage of .429.
The Gauchos got within nine points, 43-34, on a scoring drive by Wishart. The senior guard, who has replaced Sanni in the starting lineup, made 7-of-12 shots while finishing with a season-high 16 points.
“I thought Calvin Wishart really came alive today and competed really hard,” Pasternack said. “He’s a competitor.
“He didn’t get a shot against Riverside and tonight he was very aggressive offensively and did a good job.”
But the game soon spiraled out of control for the Gauchos when they threw the basketball directly to Fullerton on their next two possessions. The Titans took advantage with a basket by Max Jones and a three by Grayson Carper.
Jones led Fullerton with 18 points. Square and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. added 15 points apiece.
Norris tried to keep UCSB in the game by scoring 11 points during the next eight minutes. His teammates, however, chipped in with only four.
“I was going out there, playing hard, getting rebounds,” Norris said. “The shots aren’t always going to fall but I can control crashing the glass and getting some rebounds.
“You know we have a couple of guys out, so I feel I have to make up for K.K., Ajare and the rest of them, and go out there and play as hard as I can.”
Fullerton led by as many as 19 points with 8:23 to go.
Pasternack, aware that the Gauchos still have games against Long Beach State at home on Thursday and at UC San Diego on Saturday, sat Mitchell for the final 4:37 with the deficit at 66-53.
“We’ve hit a little rough patch with a few losses, but we’ve got to bounce back,” Norris said. “Our word is attitude. If we can keep a good attitude, keep everyone going …
“You can’t get down with the losses, you’ve got to keep pushing forward and finish out the year pretty well going into the conference tournament.”