Guard Gabe Vincent is only a freshman, but has already established himself as an important piece of the UCSB men’s basketball team. On Saturday, his shot with 35 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner in UCSB’s dramatic 75-74 comeback win over Hawaii in front of the largest home crowd this season at the Thunderdome.
With the Gauchos up by a point after being down by as many as 13 in the half, Vincent juggled the ball in the air before gathering it, split past two players and banked in the shot from the top of the key with two defenders in his face.
“The shot of the game was Gabe’s shot because that completely changes the last 18 seconds of that game, completely changes it,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “It wasn’t like we executed, it wasn’t like it was a great play … He had to hit a very difficult fadeaway with two guys on him, in his grill, and he banks that thing in.”
Having to play without leading scorer in senior center Alan Williams for the fifth straight game, the win comes at a much needed time for the Gauchos after two losses the week before placed them in the middle of the Big West standings. Santa Barbara improves to 4-4 in conference and 11-11 overall while Hawaii drops to 4-5 in league and 16-9 overall.
“It’s a good start as far as we came off a very hard week of practice. We tried to play with a little bit more intensity,” senior guard Zalmico Harmon said “… It’s a good start but we have a lot of areas we need to clean up on and screws we have to tighten.”
Hawaii had the opportunity to tie the game on its last possession after freshman guard Isaac Fleming chased down an offensive rebound and ran to the corner to sink what Hawaii thought was a game-tying three pointer with 1.1 seconds left.
Referees originally ruled the basket a two-pointer and after junior guard Michael Bryson launched a prayer as time expired, the officials confirmed through replay that Fleming did in fact have his foot on the line when his shot went in.
“It was the ref’s call, you can’t take it back,” Vincent said. “The ref made so many tough calls tonight and that was one of them. It went our way.”
The Gauchos stormed back in the final five minutes of the game thanks to clutch shooting from the perimeter that sparked a 13-0 run.
Three pointers from Vincent and Harmon cut the lead to four, and with junior guard John Green knocking down his own three from the corner, Santa Barbara took its first lead of the game on another trey from Bryson at the 1:32 mark.
“It was my turn. They all knocked it down, so I had to knock it down,” Bryson said. “We got the ball swung around really nicely, and I was in shooting motion and just put it up.”
Hawaii could have distanced themselves from the Gauchos in the first half. From the beginning, UCSB struggled handling the Rainbow Warriors’ full-court press, turning the ball over 10 times in the half that led to 15 points and giving UH a 37-33 lead at the half.
Despite the Gauchos struggling coming out of halftime, the home crowd gave UCSB a boost and was a definite advantage during the course of the game. A season-high 4,383 fans attended the Thunderdome.
“What I would like to give credit to is the fans. We didn’t give them a lot to get excited about, and they stuck it out, and hanged in there and stayed with us,” Williams said. “When we hit those back-to-back threes and got it to within four, the crowd got alive … Our crowd gave us a shot of energy no doubt about it.”
Bryson finished with a game-high 21 points and Vincent added 11 coming off the bench. Hawaii’s senior guard Garrett Nevels led the way for UH with 16 points while junior guard Roderick Bobbitt was a pester defensively, totaling six steals.
UCSB’s next game is Thursday against Long Beach State at home.
Mark Salay is the sports editor for the Daily Nexus. Follow him on Twitter @Mark_Salay