When the going gets tough, the tough get healthy… and then they get going.
The UCSB men’s basketball team received a shot in the arm from junior guard Branduinn Fullove, back in the starting lineup after missing two home games with a strained groin. With no points in a rusty first half, Fullove pumped in all 12 of his points in the second frame to help the Gauchos defeat Idaho 62-53 at the Cowan Spectrum in Moscow on Thursday.
UCSB outscored the Vandals 12-3 to end the game punctuated by three consecutive field goals by the big three: Mark Hull, Branduinn Fullove and Nick Jones.
The first true road win of the season for Santa Barbara came at a critical juncture for the Gauchos, losers of six of seven before Thursday’s contest. UCSB (5-8, 2-1 in the Big West) also earned its first win ever on Idaho’s home floor.
“It feels great,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We will take a win on the road at Idaho. We had to win it in a matter that was real good for us – we had to make plays down the stretch.”
When UCSB and Idaho exchanged baskets midway in the second half, Hull drilled five quick points, including his second trey of the night to hand Santa Barbara its biggest lead, 46-33 with 11:54 remaining. The Vandals punched out a 17-4 run of their own, climaxed when junior guard Dwayne Williams hit one his three treys to tie the game 50-50 at 3:40.
With another double digit lead wiped away, the Gauchos finally ended a game on a solid note.
“This time, we made clutch baskets,” sophomore point guard Chrismen Oliver said. “We made some stops and stayed tough defensively.”
Hull hit an inside bucket, Fullove jacked up an eight-foot jumper and a layup, and Jones connected on a tough shot for a commanding 58-50 lead in the final minute.
“Mark Hull’s shot was huge,” Williams said. “He made a strong move to the rim and got to the rim and made the bucket.”
Oliver and freshman guards Cecil Brown and Josh Davis energized the Gauchos with solid play off the bench in the first half. Davis recorded three steals, Brown played aggressively on both ends of the floor and Oliver pushed the ball running the offense.
“We got great minutes from Josh, Cecil and Chris,” Williams said. “When they came in, they really changed the game. They got us going when we were down 12-8 and they put us on a 10-2 run.”
Fullove couldn’t find the bottom of the net in the opening half back from his groin injury, but struck spud farmers’ stomachs in Idaho with an old-fashioned three point play to hand UCSB its first double-digit lead at 34-24 with 17 minutes left.
Dwayne Williams stroked a three and Fullove answered with a three of his own to push Santa Barbara up 37-27.
Senior forward Mark Hull continued his recent hot streak with 21 points in one of his finest overall performances on the hardwood. Jones added 12.
Sophomore forward Casey Cook also enjoyed one of his finest games of the season with 10 points on 5-7 shooting in 21 minutes.
Junior forward Tyrone Hayes led the Vandals with 21 points, seven boards and two blocks.
The Gauchos complete the road trip against Utah State on Saturday at 7 p.m. in a game televised by ESPN.
“We got the monkey off our back with our first road win,” Williams said, “and now we have to go get our second.”