The Gauchos are battling for the top spot in the Big West Conference after back-to-back victories over UC Irvine and Cal State Northridge | Credit: Lily Chubb

Ajay Mitchell and Miles Norris combined for 35 points as the UCSB men’s basketball team pulled away in the second half for a 72-52 victory over Cal State Northridge on Thursday night at the Thunderdome.

The Gauchos were able to build on the momentum gained with their impressive 73-65 victory at UC Irvine on Monday against the last-place Matadors.

“Coming off an emotional victory on Monday night, I was really disappointed in our effort in the first half. We didn’t have the energy, the fire in our bellies, the urgency that you have to have to compete for a championship,” said UCSB coach Joe Pasternack. “I thought in the second half we did a much better job.”

The Gauchos used a 21-4 run to turn a 39-38 lead with just over 13 minutes remaining in the second half to a 60-42 lead after a Norris dunk with 6:38 to play.

Cole Anderson made two of his three three-pointers during that decisive stretch and finished with 11 points.

“I thought our whole team found Cole Anderson. You’ve got to find him in transition,” Pasternack said. “Eighteen assists, man, that’s great. Our two point guards Ajay and Calvin [Wishart] had 12 assists and three turnovers.”

UCSB shot 55 percent for the game, and sharing the ball was key. Mitchell finished with a game-high six assists.

“I’m just playing my game. Coach trusts me,” Mitchell said. “I try to find the open man like Miles, Ajare [Sanni], and Cole and just play my game.”

UCSB (15-3 overall, 6-1 Big West) will stay home for a matchup against Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday beginning at 7 p.m.

“We’ve just got to treat every game the same whether we are playing UC Irvine or Cal State Northridge,” said Norris, who contributed four blocks to spearhead a magnificent defensive effort by UCSB, especially in the second half. “Like the coach said, a win is a win.”

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