When Ralphy Holmes prepared to shoot a three-point basket with the clock winding down, a little twinge of heartbreak fluttered in the Gauchos’ hearts. Not again.
Could Holmes shatter UCSB’s psyche twice? With another three-pointer to send a game into overtime? In the same season?
“In the words of Yogi Berra, it was dZ
With the ball in his hands against the UCSB men’s basketball team, Cal State Fullerton’s sophomore guard Holmes couldn’t pull another elephant out of his bag of tricks, missing a three-pointer at the buzzer with sophomore point guard Chrismen Oliver in his face. The Gauchos heaved a huge sigh of relief, escaping with a 63-60 victory at Titan Gym on Thursday night.
Yet the win came as a dose of sweet and strange revenge for UCSB. Santa Barbara clinched at least a share of the regular season Big West crown and secured the first seed in the Big West Tournament in Anaheim on March 13.
Back on Jan. 4 at the Thunderdome, Holmes hit a desperation 25-foot three to send the game into overtime. The Titans stunned UCSB 57-55 in possibly the most inexplicable and demoralizing setback against a CSUF squad that won only two conference games in 2001-02. The Gauchos need to defeat Riverside on Saturday to win their first Big West title outright in the 34-year history of the conference.
“We’re the top dogs this time,” Oliver said. “We’re really focused on the next game. After we get past Saturday, we’ll be ready for the tournament.”
The Gauchos turned the ball over three times in their first three possessions, helping the Titans jump ahead 8-3. Santa Barbara regrouped to reel off a 7-0 run sparked by junior guard Branduinn Fullove’s second three-point shot.
Santa Barbara held CSUF junior forward Pape Sow to one point in the first frame, and Holmes to just six. Holmes, the Big West’s leading scorer at 17.5 ppg, finished with 15 points on Thursday. Sow had 14.
Up 33-25 at halftime, UCSB looked to Fullove again. The junior drained two threes in the opening minutes of the second half. His fifth three put the Gauchos up 39-29 with 16:55 remaining.
Sow brought the Titans back 61-60 on a shot with 16.5 seconds left. When junior guard Nick Jones threw the ball up-court, Sow tipped it. Junior forward Anthony Bolton secured the ball and passed to Holmes for the final shot. Holmes’ shot fell short, and the Gauchos survived a scare from the Titans.
“It feels great,” Williams said. “I’m really proud of our guys. They hung in there all year – they were resilient. We are one game away from achieving one of our goals.”