The UCSB men’s basketball team was at the tail-end of its road trip last Saturday at Irvine, yet it could not pull out the stops needed to defeat a tested UC Irvine team.
The Gauchos (5-8, 2-1 in the Big West) fell to the Anteaters (11-2, 3-0) for their first loss in Big West competition before 3,084 spectators.
Sophomore forward Mark Hull led Santa Barbara with 15 points on 5-10 shooting from the field. Freshman forward Branduinn Fullove, junior forward Mike Vukovich and redshirt freshman guard Nick Jones all chipped in nine points. Freshman forward Casey Cook grabbed a team-high seven rebounds to go along with his seven points.
Though the Gauchos started relatively strong in the opening half, the grind of a four-day trip started to wear the players down during the pivotal stretches of the game.
"The game was on a four-day road trip and we just got tired," freshman center J.J. Todd said. "I think we mentally just broke down. We still have a lot of work to do; we get to play those guys again in a few weeks."
Sophomore point guard B.J. Ward agreed with his teammate about the perils of having a lead on the road against a solid basketball team that can explode at any time.
"We were playing cool, up by five, and we just got tired," Ward said. "[Senior guard] LaRon [Bryant] was out. [Senior forward] Juliano [Jordani] has tendinitis in his knee, and [the road] just got to us. We were getting beat on the defensive end, and we weren’t positioning where we should have been because we got tired."
Irvine also sought the ball at a higher percentage from the field than UCSB, making 52.8 percent of its shots, while the Gauchos could only muster their 56 points through 40.8 percent shooting, and 38.1 percent in the second half.
Anteater Jerry Green scored 23 points and passed out seven assists in Irvine’s seventh consecutive victory. Teammate Adam Parada whipped in 16 points and grabbed 15 of his team’s 41 rebounds. The Anteaters out-rebounded the Gauchos by 17 boards.
"We watched a film [Monday] of the game, and we definitely didn’t rebound well," Vukovich said. "We didn’t play with a sense of urgency that we need to play with. I think we know how to compete now in future games."