March 19, 2008
OXFORD, Miss. - Alex Harris scored 20 points, and in the process became UC Santa Barbara's all-time leading scorer, but the Gauchos lost an 83-68 decision in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament at the University of Mississippi on Wednesday night at Oxford, Miss.
Harris entered the game with 1,676 career points, 11 behind Carrick DeHart's total of 1,687. With 20 points, he completes his UCSB career with 1,696 points.
Santa Barbara (23-9) jumped out of the gates quickly in the first half, taking a 17-6 lead with 15:22 to play. Harris had seven points and sophomore guard James Powell had two of his six three-point baskets in the opening 4:38 as the Gauchos opened their 11-point lead.
Led by Dwayne Curtis, who finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds, Ole Miss (22-10) pounded the ball inside to get back in the game and take a 37-36 halftime lead. Kenny Williams was also part of the inside game, going for 13 points and nine rebounds
"Their big guys were a load down low," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "When they (the Rebels) started going inside, they were just too much for us. As long as we were forcing the action and scrambling around, we were in the game, but when it became a grind-it-out power game, we just couldn't compete."
After Zach Graham opened the second half with a lay-up to give the Rebels a 39-36 edge, Chris Devine scored four straight points, the last two on free throws, to give the Gauchos their only lead of the second half, 40-39. Ole Miss answered with a decisive 11-0 run, including a pair of three-point plays by Warren, to take a 50-40 lead with 14:17 left. The Gauchos never got closer than seven points again as the Rebels held them to four field goals in the final 11 minutes. Warren finished with 16 points, all in the second half, and David Huertas made three of his five three-pointers in the final 20 minutes.
UCSB would close the gap to seven points, the last time at 55-48 on a Powell three-pointer with 11:11 left, but would get no closer. Powell added 18 points, all on three-point baskets, to the 20 scored by Harris. Devine finished with 14.
"I was very proud of our effort," Williams said. "We played hard for 40 minutes, and that has been the signature of this team. 23 wins is a great season, and these guys have a great deal to be proud of."
Harris was pleased with his school record for career points, but he wasn't ready to enjoy it completely.
"Maybe in a week or two," he said, when asked if he was going to enjoy his new record. "Right now, it's too fresh, and it came in a loss. Still, I expect that I will be able to reflect positively at some point."
Ole Miss had a 44-27 rebound edge, but committed 18 turnovers to help the Gauchos stay in the game. Santa Barbara had 10 steals on the night.
After getting off to a fast start shooting the ball, the Gauchos finished at 37.7% overall, 34.8% from three-point territory. Mississippi shot 50.9%, including 55.2% in the decisive second half. The Rebels made 10 three-point baskets, including seven in the final 20 minutes.
The loss ends the UCSB careers of Harris, as well as forwards Ivan Elliott (eight points, eight rebounds and two steals), Nedim Pajevic, and Beau Gibb. For Gibb, a native of Oxford, Miss., it was an opportunity to play in front of his family and friends.