A shoe company's mistake sent Utah State white shoes instead of the black that Aggie basketball players had been wearing. The Ags wore them and broke a one-game losing streak Saturday.

Thursday night in a strangely vacant Thunderdome at UC-Santa Barbara, the Ags wore their white shoes again while their coach, Larry Eustachy, felt out of place in a black turtleneck shirt. Normally, he wears a white dress shirt to games, but this time, he grabbed his suit, felt two hangers and assumed one carried a shirt. At the Thunderdome, he discovered it held only slacks.The black turtleneck joined the white shoes as an Aggie good-luck charm as Big West-leading Utah State Thursday marched off its 14th win of the season. Eustachy said the black T-neck look is a keeper.

The Aggies, who were swept by Santa Barbara last year, swept the Gauchos this year with Thursday's 64-56 win accomplished by defensive tenacity as much as anything.

The win was USU's ninth straight Big West regular-season road victory dating to last season and its 11th win in its last 12 games. It left the Aggies 14-3, 8-1 in Big West play, with a two-game lead over the rest of the league.

Aggie forward Silas Mills said the extra ingredient was the way the coach was dressed for success. "I think coach with his new attire today, a little style, could have been it," said Mills.

It could have been Mills, too, with an 18-point, eight-rebound night.

"Silas was very effective at both ends," said Eustachy.

Santa Barbara's big men kept Aggie Eric Franson bottled up the first half - he had four points, eight rebounds (but finished with 15/13). He did the same to UCSB's Doug Muse (six points, six rebounds at the half, 16/11 for the game). So Mills' contribution, especially with USU shooting 33 percent for the half (UCSB 32) let the Ags hang close, and that was the game plan.

The Aggies, the BWC's best-shooting team, started this one 0-for-10. Actually, they did make two baskets, both taken away by charging fouls.

It was eerily like the last time USU played the "Dome, when it scored only 14 points the first half and lost 55-33, USU's lowest scoring total in 44 years.

"We hoped we wouldn't do that, but that was in the back of our minds," said senior guard Roddie Anderson, who spread the word to new players about last year's embarrassment.

Mills finally rebounded his own miss to put the Ags on the scoreboard for the very first time after 7:07 minutes had gone by, and he hit two more baskets in the next minute to put them ahead 6-5. He also picked up three fouls, two for charging, in the first 17 minutes.

Mills broke a 35-35 tie with a baseline layup ,and his rebound baskets off Franson misses put the Ags up by seven (42-35) and six (46-40), but UCSB got within 50-49 before a Franson score followed by a Mills' three-pointer with about two seconds left on the shot clock finally swayed the game in USU's favor. The 55-49 lead with 2:00 left forced Santa Barbara to foul.

"I thought Silas really hurt us with his two tipins and that one three-pointer," said Gaucho coach Jerry Pimm. "I thought we had him going with three fouls, but he really hit a big three."

Corwin Woodard (12 points), whose outside shooting during three minutes of the second half helped USU cling when the home team started hitting threes, dribbled out much of the shot clock, then passed to Mills for the three.

"I talked that three in, that last-second shot," said Mills. "I'm screaming, `Corwin, it's good!' " Despite Thursday's small turnout of 3,014 in a building where 6,000 usually scream, Eustachy, Anderson and Mills maintain UCSB is a tough place to play. Why? The other team's so good, Eustachy said. The crowd was likely held down by mid-terms, nice weather and a losing streak now at four games, though UCSB is still 8-2 at home. The Aggies now move to Long Beach for their first game in the new Pyramid, where the 49ers are 6-2. They're 6-3 in the Big West, tied for second.

"I didn't think we could win on this road trip," said Eustachy earnestly.

"They talked about Utah State can't play coming off the mountain," said Anderson, referring to Logan's altitude. "This is nine in a row off the mountain."