Second-seeded Gauchos enter Big West Tournament on hot streak

UCSB's Zalmico Harmon is one of two UCSB seniors - Alan Williams being the other - playing in their final Big West Tournament.

UCSB’s Zalmico Harmon is one of two UCSB seniors – Alan Williams being the other – playing in their final Big West Tournament.


UCSB’s men’s basketball team is brimming with confidence entering this week’s Big West Conference Tournament after winning eight of its last nine games to snatch the second seed.

Beating Cal Poly on Saturday for their fifth consecutive win gave the Gauchos a rematch in their tournament opener against the same Mustangs, who routed UCSB in the first round last year, 69-38.

Tip-off at Honda Center is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on Thursday night.


Santa Barbara defeated the Mustangs 50-45 on Jan. 10 in San Luis Obispo and then 64-56 on Mar. 7 in Santa Barbara.

At mid-season, a No. 2 seed in the Big West Tournament looked like a long shot for UCSB. On Jan. 30 the Gauchos’ league record fell to 3-4 after a 77-55 loss at UC Irvine, but since that time, they have turned things around, winning five in a row and eight of the last nine on their way to an 11-5 Big West record, tying them with the Anteaters for second-place in the league behind UC Davis. Based on tiebreakers, UCSB earned the No. 2 seed, the same as last season, and will once again play Cal Poly.

UCSB’s five-game win streak is its longest of the season. During the streak, UCSB has posted wins over Cal Poly (64-56), Hawai’i (98-90), UC Irvine (54-51), UC Davis (74-60) and Cal State Fullerton (69-54). Going back further, since the start of February, UCSB has won eight of its last nine and is now 18-12 overall and 11-5 in Big West Conference play. The current record marks the first time this year that the Gauchos have been six games over .500, both overall and in league play.

The last time a Gaucho team ended the regular season with five or more consecutive wins was in 1960-61 when it won six straight games. The last time Santa Barbara had a stretch better than eight out of nine was in 2009-10 when it won nine out of 10 before losing to Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

UCSB has won three Big West Conference Tournament titles and played for a fourth. The Gauchos won their first championship in 2002 when they were seeded third, beating Cal Poly, UC Irvine and Utah State. In 2010, as the No. 1 seed, UCSB topped UC Davis in the semifinals and Long Beach State in the final. In 2011, as the fifth seeded team, the Gauchos beat Pacific, Cal State Northridge and Long Beach State. The following year, in 2012, they advanced to their third consecutive championship game against Long Beach, but that time the 49ers were too much. UCSB has lost its first round game each of the last two seasons.

UCSB enters the Big West Tournament with four players averaging 10 or more points per game. Alan Williams leads the team at 16.8 points per game followed by Michael Bryson (14.1 ppg), John Green (11.0 ppg) and Gabe Vincent (10.2 ppg). The last Gaucho team to have four players averaging 10 or more points per game was in 1989-90 when Carrick DeHart (15.9 ppg), Eric McArthur (15.6 ppg), Gary Gray (12.9 ppg) and Paul Johnson (10.3 ppg) each averaged in double-figures.