March 16, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The UC Santa Barbara men's basketball team will return to postseason play for the first time in five years, when it travels to Oxford, Miss., to play the University of Mississippi in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament, it was announced Sunday.
The Gauchos, a No. 7 seed in the NIT, shared the Big West Conference regular season championship with Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge, will play the Ole Miss Rebels, a No. 2 seed, on Wednesday, March 19, at 5:00 p.m. (PDT). The game will be carried on ESPNU.
UCSB will enter Wednesday night's game with a record of 23-8. The Gauchos, who lost to UC Irvine in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament, will be playing Mississippi for the first time. The Rebels lost to the eventual champion Georgia in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament and will enter the game with a 21-10 overall record. The Rebels went 7-9 in the brutal SEC.
Santa Barbara is led by senior guard Alex Harris, who is averaging 20.2 points per game. He needs 12 points to become the school's all-time leading scorer. Junior forward Chris Devine (12.2 points per game) and sophomore guard James Powell (12.1 points per game) rank second and third on the team in scoring.
Ole Miss, which went 14-2 at home during the regular season, including a perfect 8-0 in league play, is led by guard Chris Warren who is averaging 15.5 points and more than four assists per game. Forward Dwayne Curtis averages 15.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per outing.
"As a program, we are excited about being in postseason play," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "Mississippi will be a huge challenge, but we are looking forward to it. Coach (Andy) Kennedy and his staff does a great job in a great conference. I think this will be a fantastic experience for our team."
The winner of the UCSB-Mississippi match-up will play the winner of the Nebraska-Charlotte contest, which will be played in Lincoln, Neb., on Wednesday night.