Gaucho Invasion

California-Santa Barbara is going through what Ole Miss went through last season. The Gauchos are in postseason basketball play for the first time in a long time – five years to be exact.

UCSB, a No. 7 seed in the NIT, shared the Big West Conference regular season championship with Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge, and will play the Rebels, a No. 2 seed, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be carried on ESPNU.

Against the other two champions, the Gauchos went 2-0 against Fullerton and 1-1 against Northridge.

UC Santa Barbara will enter Wednesday night's game with a record of 23-8. The Gauchos lost to UC Irvine in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament and will be playing the Rebels for the first time.

Santa Barbara is led by 6-foot-6, 185-pound 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 at 6-8 and 230 pounds (12.2 points per game) and 6-2, 185 sophomore guard James Powell (12.1 points per game) rank second and third on the team in scoring.

Harris was selected as the 2008 Big West co-Player of the Year, along with Cal State Fullerton's Scott Cutley. Harris, who finished the regular season averaging 20.2 points per game, was also chosen First Team All-Big West for the second consecutive year after leading the Gauchos to a share of the league's regular season championship. He is the fourth UCSB player to earn the Big West Player of the Year award,

Beau Gibb, 6-8, 205 forward from Oxford, is also on the UC Santa Barbara squad.

The Gauchos' win at Long Beach State in the regular season finale was their 23rd of the season, breaking the previous school record for wins set in 1987-88 when they finished 22-8. This marks the ninth time in school history that the Gauchos have won 20 games in a season and the first since the 2001-02 campaign.

"As a program, we are excited about being in postseason play," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams, in his 10th season. "Mississippi will be a huge challenge, but we are looking forward to it. Coach (Andy) Kennedy and his staff do a great job in a great conference. I think this will be a fantastic experience for our team."

Some of their most noteworthy games this season were a 63-60 win over UNLV, a 79-52 road win at Ball State, a 105-70 loss at North Carolina, and a 67-48 loss at Stanford. The Gauchos are a seasoned road team, going 10-4 in true road games, tying the school record for road wins.

UCSB will be making its fifth appearance in the National Invitation Tournament. The Gauchos last played in the NIT in 2003 when they lost a first round game in overtime at San Diego State. Santa Barbara also took part in 1989, 1992, and 1993. The Gauchos have not fared well in the NIT, posting an 0-4 record. In 1989, they dropped a 70-62 decision at Wichita State. In 1992 and 1993, UCSB hosted Arizona State and Pepperdine, respectively, and lost by scores of 71-65 and 53-50.

Probable Starters

G - Justin Joyner - Has had more turnovers than assists just twice this season.

G - Alex Harris - Needs 12 points to become UCSB's all-time leading scorer.

G - James Powell - Made 20-of-34 shots from three-point range in last six games.

F - Chris Devine - Had season-high 11 rebounds in Big West Tourney game vs. UC Irvine.

F - Ivan Elliott - Has 48 career blocked shots and needs one to move into UCSB top-10.

Probable Reserves

G - Nick Quick - Has attempted eight shots in just 16 minutes of action.

G - Jordan Weiner - 15 out of his 17 field goals are from three-point range.

G - Paul Roemer - Played 482 minutes this season after playing just 132 as a freshman.

G - D.J. Posley - Had career-high six steals in Big West Tournament game against UC Irvine.

F - Nedim Pajevic - Has had four or more rebounds in six consecutive games.

F - Sam Phippen - Scored two points at Utah State, his only points since Dec. 1 at LMU.

F - Beau Gibb - Oxford, Miss., native going home for NIT game.

*** UCSB athletics media relations contributed to this story.


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