Two teams waltzed into the Thunderdome expecting the Santa Barbara men’s basketball team to lie down and die this past week. The Gauchos had other plans against Westmont and San Diego State.
UCSB triumphed over the Warriors 57-50 in overtime Saturday, and upended the Aztecs 80-77 on Wednesday in the program’s second-ever triple overtime game.
After getting its first win of the season against Westmont, Santa Barbara (2-4) bounced right back to counter every Aztec play in a back-and-forth struggle. Sophomore forward Mark Hull scored 21 points, junior forward Mike Vukovich grabbed 13 boards and poured in 10 points and LaRon Bryant pumped in 19 points against SDSU.
In an event that set the tone for the hectic evening, the backboard collapsed on Aztec guard Deandre Moore during pre-game warm-ups. Moore ended up playing 43 minutes in the contest with a taped hand. At the end of regulation, there was confusion when freshman guard Branduinn Fullove committed a foul by going over the back, while tipping the ball in on the final play. The refs reviewed the sequence on a TV monitor and concluded that the foul occurred after the buzzer had sounded.
“[Ref Jim Stupin] said 1.3 on the clock is what he told me at first,” SDSU Head Coach Steve Fisher said. “And for whatever reason he said there was no time on the clock [after looking at the TV monitor].”
The Gauchos roared back in the third overtime period with two free throws each by Hull and Fullove, after falling behind 75-70. Hull smoked a trey in front of the UCSB bench to tie the game 77-77. Bryant drew an offensive foul from guard Al Faux, setting up Hull’s game clinching jumper, 79-77, with 43 seconds on the clock.
“This is as rewarding and needed a victory [as any],” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We out-rebounded them at crucial moments, and another thing for us in the game was our made free throws. We found a way to win.”
Against the Warriors, sophomore guard B.J. Ward sent the game into overtime with a dramatic three to beat the buzzer. The Gauchos went on to trounce Westmont in the overtime period behind Bryant’s two three-point daggers.
“Thank God B.J. gave us a second chance,” Bryant said. “This is a team we should beat; I’m still eager to knock off one of the teams we shouldn’t.”
|Gaucho Locos go crazy after B.J. ward hit an amazing three-pointer to send the game versus Westmont into overtime.|
Ward drilled in a career-high 15 points and added six assists for Santa Barbara.
UCSB grabbed a 20-10 lead after a bucket from Fullove, who played in his first game since an ankle injury during a game at Pepperdine. Westmont capitalized with a 10-1 run to cut the gap to 21-20 at the half after the Gauchos could not find the net for almost nine minutes in the half.
Hull was held to three shot attempts in the first half and four points in the game. Santa Barbara shot a mere 29 percent in the first half that was compounded by 12 consecutive missed field goals during one stretch.
“We felt once we settled into our [3-2] zone, we did a nice job,” Westmont Head Coach John Moore said. “Our defense executed phenomenally against Hull especially.”
Bryant missed a three with under 10 seconds left and Warrior guard Corey Blick took an outlet pass straight to the rack for a 47-44 lead with 3.6 seconds left. Ward rushed the ensuing inbound pass down the floor and threw up a running 23-footer that amazingly struck net and sent the crowd into an uproar and the game into overtime.
“I’ve never hit a shot like that in a real game, only on the playground,” Ward said.
– Reporter Jason Smith also contributed to this article.