No matter how inept the 49ers are, they always seem to come out with guns blazing whenever Gauchos roll into town.
The UCSB men’s basketball team suffered a frustrating and unexpected blow at the hands of the Big West’s bottom feeders, dropping a 68-67 stunner to LBSU at the Pyramid on Saturday evening.
A generous Long Beach sent Santa Barbara to the free throw line 35 times. Yet the Gauchos refused to collect at the charity stripe, sinking 23-35 shots for a subpar 65.7 percent. LBSU took care of business at the line, hitting 19-25.
This discrepancy would haunt the Gauchos during their final rally.
Down 65-58 with a 1:03 remaining, UCSB (9-10, 6-3 in the Big West) went on a furious tear. Consecutive steals and layups from guards Nick Jones and B.J. Ward and one free throw from junior guard Branduinn Fullove helped Santa Barbara storm back 66-65. Fullove went to work again, striking Niner gold on a layup with 6.6 seconds remaining for a 67-66 lead to punctuate a 12-1 run. Fouled on the play, Fullove earned a chance to complete the three-point play and put the Gauchos up by two.
Fullove missed the free throw.
LBSU senior guard Tony Darden scrambled down the court in the final seconds before junior point guard Jacoby Atako was whistled for a foul with 2.2 seconds. Darden, who just missed two free throws prior to Fullove’s layup, calmly sunk both shots for the final margin of victory.
The Big West’s fourth strongest free throw shooter at 84.5 percent coming into Saturday’s game, Darden scored all nine of his points on a 9-11 exhibition from the stripe. Fullove, an 82 percent marksman from the line, missed two free of three free throws in the final 18 seconds.
After clobbering Irvine on Thursday with deft shooting and intensity on defense for a full 40 minutes, UCSB struggled to maintain continuity on both ends of the floor.
The Gauchos skipped ahead 37-34 at halftime thanks to an 18-9 run despite LBSU shooting a blistering 57 percent from the floor on 12-21 shots. Conversely, UCSB shot 41.4 percent in the opening frame before going deeper in the tank in the second half at 34.8 percent. The Gauchos went frigid in the second half at the line missing nine of 22 free throws.
Freshman guard Jibril Hodges, the son of former 12-year NBA sharpshooter Craig Hodges, led the Niners with 19 points including 5-11 shots from three-point country. Forward Kevin Roberts scored 15 points and center Vance Lawhorn dropped 15 points for LBSU.
The night was not a complete disaster for the Gauchos, however. Senior forward Mark Hull drilled a three-pointer at 7:20 in the first frame to break the record held by Carrick DeHart since 1990. Hull hit another three later in the contest, and has stroked 198 threes during his career.