The UCSB men’s basketball doesn’t know the meaning of the word comfortable.
The Gauchos needed two blocks in the final seconds against Cal State Fullerton by redshirt Nick Jones and sophomore forward Mark Hull to preserve their unblemished mark in conference play.
After blowing a double-digit lead against CSUF and allowing the Titans to recapture the lead in the final minute, Santa Barbara (5-7, 2-0 in the Big West) took over with key plays from its young veterans that got the team into the predicament originally, squeaking out a 74-71 victory.
With the game knotted up at 68-68 with 1:15 left, the Gauchos were prepared for another sparring battle with CSUF. Hull knocked down a layup off a backdoor pass from freshman guard Jacoby Atako with 1:04. But with sophomore veteran point guard B.J. Ward sitting on the bench after fouling out with 4:41, Atako fouled guard David Castleton to get booted himself.
Not only did the Titans take the lead a possession later with both Gaucho helmsmen on the bench, they were also in the perfect position to take the game away from UCSB. Titan forward Ike Harmon made a layup for a 71-70 lead with 28 seconds in the game after teammate Chris Smith stole the ball. After a timeout, Hull was posting up and subsequently fouled by Harmon with 14 seconds in the game, which gave the Gauchos a 72-71 lead with his two free throws.
CSUF took a timeout, and the 5’9″ Smith attempted to drive the lane, only to find the outstretched hand of Jones rejecting the initial shot. Hull followed immediately and gave excellent helpside defense in the final seconds of the game. Fullerton fouled freshman guard Branduinn Fullove after the scramble for the ball, and the guard sealed the deal by making both free throws for a 74-71 win.
Fullove buried 13-14 free throws in the game, and the Gauchos made 82.4 percent on the night, or 28-34 at the charity line. UCSB made 10-11 free throws in the first half, and won the rebounding battle, 37-26. The Gauchos were paced by Fullove’s 22 points and by Jones’ 15 points and seven rebounds. Hull made all four of his free throws, scored 14 points and dished out six assists. Junior center Mike Vukovich scored 10 points and ripped down eight rebounds for UCSB.
The victory was the fifth in a row over CSUF, and the fourth in a row at Titan Gym. UCSB has won 10 of the last 12 meetings between the two teams.
We can feel comfortable about [the win],” Head Coach Bob Williams said on KEYT. “We have the hardest time maintaining our intensity on both ends of the floor. We got sloppy, but we tried to play a three-possession game. I told my players, ‘let’s concentrate for two possessions, and let’s stop them for two times and see where it gets us.'”
The Gauchos won their first road game of the season, and despite CSUF’s (1-12, 0-3) abysmal record, they are happy to notch that elusive victory at a foreign gym. UCSB is now 1-5 on the road this year.
“Right now, any victory is big for us,” Hull said on KEYT. “We played well in spurts … road wins are really good for us. [Thursday], we were lucky. We didn’t play our best game, but we won. We’re happy to win a road game.”