Dominant First Half Propels San Diego Past UCSB 79-65


After a number of close games against quality opponents, the Toreros finally got a signature win as they defeated the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 79-65 on  the road Thursday night. Johnny Dee had a game-high 22 points. Chris Anderson had a bounce back game with 17 points and 6 assists after scoring just 4 combined points in his last two games. Freshman Vasa Pusica had a breakout with 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in just 19 minutes. It’s a career-high for the native of Serbia, and the first double-digit scoring performance by a San Diego freshman this season.

With the win, the Toreros improve to 5-5 on the season after briefly dipping below .500 for the first time since losing their opening game. They also snap a three game losing streak and have captured their first official road win of the season, Their four other victories had come either at home or at neutral sites. The Gauchos meanwhile fall to 4-5 and have lost three of their last four games.

After recently appearing in a feature story in Sports Illustrated, Gauchos star Alan Williams had a typically strong game with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and a ridiculous 7 blocks. Three other UCSB players also reached double-digit points.  But it wasn’t enough as they got just 11 combined points for the entire rest of their roster.

The Gauchos did give a valiant comeback effort for the second year in a row however. Last year in a game in Jenny Craig Pavilion, the Toreros had a comfortable halftime lead and were shutting out Williams before he sparked a comeback in the second half. This year was almost the same as UCSB outscored the Toreros in the second half, but they couldn’t overcome a big 15 point halftime deficit.


Three Point Shooting:

San Diego – 71.4%

UC Santa Barbara – 42.9%

The Toreros were absolutely on fire from long-rage. When you’re hitting threes at that kind of rate, you can beat anyone. San Diego was 7-11 from beyond the arc in the first half, and a perfect 3-3 in the second half. Anderson and Dee each went 3-4 on three pointers, and Pusica went 2-2 while putting up his career-best 10 points. The Gauchos weren’t bad at all themselves, but the Toreros were just way too hot. And this stats explains a lot why the Toreros got a comfortable win despite strong performances by all the key USCB players.



Dee and Anderson having big games is expected each time the Toreros hit the floor. But they key has been what secondary players step up. When the two senior guards carry the whole load, it’s tough to win. When others support them, it becomes much easier. The Toreros have looked infinitely better in games where Brandon Perry, Jito Kok, Thomas Jacobs, and Duda Sanadze have given good support.

Pusica is the latest Torero to take that supporting role, and he did it brilliantly. A lot is expected of the freshman, and he might be the most talented youngster the Toreros have. To see him fill up the stat is a great sign in general, but to see any of the many freshman on the roster finally have a really solid game is a very positive sign. The last things opponents want to see is the immense potential of San Diego’s role players finally coming to fruition.



The Toreros can shoot. And that goes beyond their big performance in this game. Even a great shooting team can’t expect those percentages every night, but even on a average day they have the shooters to keep them in games. Dee is among the most accurate in the nation. Sanadze is excellent if he can finally get healthy. And Anderson appears to have added shooting to his game making him that much better.

Between those veterans and scoring potential of freshmen like Pusica and Marcus Harris, the Toreros have the ability to hit shots and hang with any team. That is big considering their inside play is not consistent. It was a great display to see them on fire tonight from long range, and it proves how deadly they can be when they’re rolling. If you want to get a future San Diego opponent nervous, just show them tape of this win. Watching little Toreros run around creating chaos and draining shots will cause them to lose sleep.


The good news is that the Toreros are starting to get output from more than just Dee and Anderson every game. The bad news is that it seems to rotate between players and nobody can get going at the same time. Anderson went ice cold the past couple games but had a big performance against the Gauchos. Perry had a breakout game against UCLA but didn’t do much this past game. Pusica has done little, but now he breaks out with 10 points. Jacobs was red hot as the start of the season but has gone cold. Sanadze has had some good performances, but with his injury you never know if he’s going to drop 12 points or not play at all. Kok looks ready to finally become a consistent offensive threat, but he keeps teetering between solid games and below average ones.

Dee has been the only constant and is among the top scorers in the nation. But the Toreros need 3-4 solid performances every night to have a chance. And right now they’re only getting 2-3 with them never seeming to be from the same players except for Dee. It’s positive because it means they have many guys capable of being those key players, but extremely frustrating when they can’t get going at the same time. Progress is happening as evident by solid breakout performances recently, but it still needs to all come together pretty soon with conference play coming fast.


We predicted victory for the Toreros in this one despite the Gauchos being such a strong team and Williams being such a matchup problem. That prediction was based in large part on how seasoned the Toreros have become. They looked very good in losses to San Diego State and UCLA, so they were able to go into this one confident and knowing they could get the win. Sure enough, their strong shooting was a good sign of that confidence, and they produced a strong win on the road.

At best the Toreros will be a pedestrian 7-5 heading into conference play, but with the tough schedule they have played it’s more impressive than one might think. They don’t have a single bad loss, and every one of them has been very competitive with just one coming by double digits. A year after upsetting both Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, the Toreros again should feel confident and seasoned heading into WCC play. They know they can beat anyone, so now it’s just a matter of putting it all together. If they can do that by winning the games they should and stealing an upset or two, they will be a legitimate contender.


The Toreros conclude non-conference play with a pair of easy home games after this brutal past stretch. They return to the Jenny Craig Pavilion for the first time since November 24th when they host New Orleans on Saturday, and they finish up with what should be an easy win over NAIA San Diego Christian next week. After that it’s into WCC play with a very tough pair of early games as they host Portland followed by Gonzaga just over 48 hours later. Between those games and the ensuing New Year’s Day visit to San Francisco, we should know quickly how the Toreros will fare as they bring their big game experience into conference play.