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HomeSportsBasketball‘Eaters Tower Over Short-Handed Gauchos in Decisive, 70-59, Victory

‘Eaters Tower Over Short-Handed Gauchos in Decisive, 70-59, Victory

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A rejuvenated UCI Men’s Basketball team (18-8, 11-3) clapped back and avenged a previous loss to UC Santa Barbara (20-5, 11-3) at the UCSB Events Center on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

The last match between both teams saw UCI shorthanded without junior forward Chazz Hutchison and sophomore center Bent Leuchten and unfortunately this match was no different. The Gauchos were without starter graduate forward Andre Kelly, who was serving a one-game suspension due to an altercation with a UC Davis player, and freshman forward Koat Keat Tong. Additionally, netting a win against UCSB tied the ‘Eaters for first place in the Big West conference. 

Early on UCI stars, junior guards DJ Davis and Dawson Baker, jump-started the offense with eight straight points, one of which was an impressive twenty-five foot three by Davis. However, the hot start didn’t faze the Gauchos at all and their game plan remained painfully simple. The Gauchos ran lineups overloaded with shooting guards and abused pick-and-roll motions. Despite the simplicity, the tactic proved effective, as UCI’s man-to-man defense and inability to quickly switch on to UCSB’s smaller guards provided the Gauchos with a multitude of easy high-percentage two-pointers. 

UCI’s largest lead was 19-13 with eight minutes remaining, but the Gauchos were never far behind. Throughout the half the Gauchos slowly but surely cut down on UCI’s lead and by the 2 minute mark the score was tied at 30-30.Much of the production on the Gauchos was attributed to sophomore guard Ajay Mitchell who drained his 15th point at 1:20 mark, putting the score at 30-32 in UCSB’s favor. In the final seconds of the first half, Davis received a 47-foot lob at the half-court and launched a miraculous hail-mary three to cut down the Gaucho lead to two, 33-35. Davis ended the half with 15 points, a single steal, a rebound and assist.

By the end of the half, although the Gauchos emerged with better shooting splits 47.83 field goal percentage, 50 three-point percentage and 100 free throws percentage, the only reason the Gauchos were in the game was because of UCI’s excessive fouls that gave them 11 free points.

By the 15-minute mark of the second half, the ‘Eaters and Gauchos continued a gritty tit-for-tat, until the ‘Eaters finally unveiled a terribly daunting formation, the 2-3 zone. The 2-3 zone is a defensive formation that relies heavily on zoned defense where each player is responsible for a zone on the court as opposed to constantly running after a particular player. The change in defensive scheme allowed the ‘Eaters to sit back and force the offense to utilize something other than a pick-and-roll. At 49-41, Gaucho heroics achieved a 9-3 run that settled the score at 53-50. The Gauchos abused the paint through back-door cuts and sunk tough three-point shots, but ultimately began to run out of steam at the 10-minute mark. 

With five minutes left, UCI amassed an 11-point lead, 66-55, and held the Gauchos scoreless for the final three minutes of play. Late in the game, UCI also amassed a flurry of four offensive rebounds in a single possession. By the time the Gauchos finally gained possession of the ball, the score was 68-59 with 1:13 remaining. The final score settled at 70-59 in UCI’s favor. UCI outrebounded the Gauchos, 38-26, and scored almost twice as many points in the paint, 30-14. Davis ended the night with an impressive 25 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and Baker amassed 14 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal.

The ‘Eaters look to continue their three-game win streak against the UC Davis Aggies at the Bren Events Center on Saturday, Feb. 18. 
Jason Garcia Escobar is a Sports Staff Writer. He can be reached at