The UCSB men’s basketball team collided with a group of rambunctious Broncos on the last regular season game for both teams, and the Gauchos got a swift kick in the pants on their way to the Big West Tournament.
Santa Barbara could not muster out a win against Boise State, faltering 65-59 at the Pavilion on Saturday night. UCSB dug itself a hole it couldn’t get out of, going scoreless for nearly eight minutes in the second half, and BSU scratched ahead 47-36 with 6:42 in the half after going on a 10-0 run in that same eight-minute span.
Bronco senior swingman Kejuan Woods, playing in front of his home crowd for the last time, tied his career-high with 26 points. Junior forward Abe Jackson pumped in 19 points for BSU (16-13, 8-8).
After defeats in the final two games of the season, Santa Barbara will try to quickly recuperate before heading Wednesday to the Anaheim Convention Center where it will be competing in the Big West Tournament as the fourth seed.
“We’re looking at our third season right now,” sophomore point guard B.J. Ward said. “The first season was the preseason, the second season was the regular season and the third season is the tournament. The first two are behind us.”
UCSB is slotted to battle against Pacific, the fifth seed, on Thursday, March 8. The time of the game has not yet been announced, but the team will probably play after Irvine vs. Cal Poly, which starts at 6 p.m.
“We’re disappointed we lost the game,” junior forward Mike Vukovich said. “We’ve played against Pacific twice, and we beat them twice. Playing them recently too helps a lot.”
Freshman forward Branduinn Fullove, battling on the court with a bruised hip suffered in the first half of a loss at Utah State on Thursday, played well for the Gauchos. Fullove poured in 21 points on 7-11 shooting from the floor and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
“He showed a lot of emotion playing hurt,” freshman forward Casey Cook said. “He made key baskets and kept us in the game. [His performance] gives him and us confidence going into the Big West Tournament.”
The Gauchos played back-and-forth ball against the Broncos in the first half, with neither team finding a cohesive rhythm for the opening 20 minutes. UCSB went to the locker room with a 28-27 halftime lead. Woods kept BSU on the radar with 12 points, including a trey with only two seconds in the half.
The second half continued with neither team pulling away for the first five minutes. BSU then turned its defense up a notch, and before Gauchos knew what hit them, the players found themselves in a hole. UCSB will now have two days of practice before going down south to play in the Happiest Place on Earth.
“We’re optimistic and we’re going to come out hard and try to win [the Big West Tournament],” Ward said. “We want to play in the [NCAA] Tournament. That’s everyone’s dream.”