After dropping a tough one-point decision to Long Beach State on Thursday night at the Thunderdome, the UCSB men’s basketball team once again came up one point short, this time losing 68-67 to Idaho at Moscow. The Gauchos have now lost three straight games in Big West conference play, after winning their first two games.
“We came out with a spark tonight and had a good effort,” Head Coach Bob Williams said on 1250 AM radio. “But of course I am disappointed with the result.”
In a game that featured 11 lead changes and six ties, the Gauchos, (5-10, 2-3 in the Big West) seemingly took the lead for good on sophomore point guard B.J. Ward’s reverse layup with 11 seconds left, going up 67-66. However, after an Idaho timeout, Vandals point guard Bethuel Fletcher dished out his sixth and most important assist of the night to Jerald Jenkins. Jenkins buried a six-foot jumper with four seconds remaining in the contest that proved to be the game-winner. Redshirt freshman guard Nick Jones’ desperate three-pointer at the buzzer was blocked, and Santa Barbara continued its slide.
The lead changed hands five times in the first five minutes, as UCSB struggled to find its shooting touch in the frigid Idaho weather. With the score tied at eight, Idaho’s Matt Gerschefske started to heat up in the first half, nailing three three-point bombs in a stretch of two minutes, to give Idaho a 20-16 lead. This was a sign of things to come, as the Vandals (4-12, 1-4) relied on the long ball all night, hitting 10-21 from beyond the arc.
UCSB then battled back to meet the Vandals’ challenge behind the stellar play of sophomore forward Mark Hull’s buckets, who had 14 first half points, to tie the game at 27 apiece. Hull and Jones combined to lead the Gauchos on a 10-4 run to end the half, going up 37-31.
Idaho came out from the locker room in the second half on fire, using a 7-2 run to take a 40-39 lead. The Gauchos then got back to back buckets from junior forward Mike Vukovich to reclaim the lead, 43-40.
The two teams then exchanged baskets for the next six minutes, with neither team able to gain a sizeable advantage. Hull, Santa Barbara’s leading scorer, continued his trend of sub-par second halves, scoring only four points in the period after going scoreless in the second half against the 49ers by missing all three of his field goals, and not being a factor in the outcome of the loss.
“Mark was more aggressive in the second half tonight, but he just couldn’t get a call,” Williams said.
Without Hull’s hot hand the rest of the team struggled to find the bottom of the nets. Ward and freshman guard Branduinn Fullove picked up the scoring slack in Hull’s absence. Fullove, who finished with seven points and seven boards, made up for a scoreless first half by burying a trey and a jumper to put UCSB up 48-43. Santa Barbara then looked to Ward midway through the period, and Ward responded by repeatedly getting to the charity stripe, where he finished 7-8.
Idaho couldn’t take advantage of UCSB’s lack of scoring punch, and when Jones converted on a three-point play to put Santa Barbara up 61-57, the Gauchos appeared to have the game in the bag.
The Vandals once again responded, tying the game at 65 on a clutch fast break three-pointer by point guard Adam Miller, who finished with 15 points. Idaho forward Chris Monroe then added a free throw to put the Vandals up by one before the final sequence of the game doomed Santa Barbara.