The UCSB men’s basketball team rebounded in a big way on Monday night.
The Gauchos (7-4, 1-1 in the Big West) slid past rival Irvine 84-77 at the Bren Events Center, one of the toughest places for visiting opponents to win basketball games in the Big West.
Irvine Head Coach Pat Douglas has guided his Anteaters to 43 wins in its last 54 Big West games. After beating up on a tough Cal Poly squad and Big West Player of the Year candidate Varnie Dennis on Saturday, Irvine (5-5, 1-1) welcomed the conference favorite Gauchos who had just been defeated at the Pyramid on a last-second banked three-pointer by Long Beach State’s Louis Darby.
After blowing a 21-point lead against lowly LBSU on Saturday night in the conference opener, Santa Barbara knew that its next two opponents, Irvine on the road and Utah State at home on Thursday night, could very easily curse the Gauchos to an 0-3 start to Big West competition.
UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams had his troops prepared on Monday as Santa Barbara stormed out of the gate to open up a comfortable early cushion. But Irvine managed to battle back and the teams went into the locker room with the Gauchos clinging to a tight 38-36 advantage. Santa Barbara came out firing again in the second half and built a sizeable lead midway through the half, but Irvine wouldn’t go away until the final seconds.
Senior guard Branduinn Fullove scored a team-high 17 points, shooting 50 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Cecil Brown came off the bench to nail home 15 points on three for four shooting and seven of eight from the charity stripe. Sophomore guard Joe See hit three out of four three-pointers to finish with 11 points and four assists. The Gauchos finished the game, shooting 50 percent from the field (27-54) and three-point land (8-16).
The Anteaters were led by sophomore guard Mike Efevberha, who scored a game-high 23 points on seven out of 16 shooting. Senior center Adam Parada played all but three minutes of the contest and hit 16 points, including a perfect 10 for 10 from the free-throw line. The 7’0″, 265-pound Parada, a second team all-conference selection last season, hauled down nine rebounds in the losing effort.
In other games around the Big West, Long Beach State impressively improved to 2-0 in conference with a 86-72 pounding of Cal Poly (5-5, 0-2 in the Big West) last night. University of the Pacific also edged Fullerton 66-64 to begin the conference season 2-0 after beating Riverside on Saturday night.
The Gauchos will host Utah State (9-1, 1-0) on Thursday night at 7. The Aggies cruised to victory over Idaho in its conference opener at Logan, Utah, on Saturday evening.