In an emotional game at the Thunderdome on Thursday night, first-place University of the Pacific edged the UCSB men’s basketball team in the final minutes 61-58 to complete the regular season sweep of the Gauchos. Tigers senior guard Miah Davis guided UOP to victory. With his commanding game control and nerveless confidence, the recipient of two consecutive Big West Player of the Week awards scored eight points in the final four minutes of regulation to run Pacific’s unbeaten streak to nine straight games.
“He took the game over a bit down the stretch,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He has great confidence and made some big plays. You might slow him down, but you’re not going to shut him out.”
Santa Barbara drops to a mediocre 13-9 overall and 7-6 in the Big West but still remains a half-game ahead of the University of Idaho for third place in the conference standings.
“I don’t think we’re appropriately displeased with ourselves when we don’t play well,” Williams said. “This group needs an attitude change for anything to happen. I think the ball’s in their court, and they need to step up a notch.”
After battling back into the game midway through the second half with a 10-0 run, the Gauchos took a three-point lead with 3:39 to play on a field goal by junior forward Casey Cook. UOP junior forward Tyler Newton hit one of two free throws on the other end, but sophomore forward Cameron Goettsche turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and sophomore guard Joe See was forced to foul Davis at the hoop. Davis sunk the pair at the charity stripe to pull even with Santa Barbara 53-53. Senior guard Branduinn Fullove turned it over again for the Gauchos, and junior guard David Doubley’s layup with 2:25 remaining gave the Tigers a two-point advantage. Newton’s fifth foul gave Fullove two free trips to the line, but the 2002-03 Big West Player of the Year could only convert one of two, and the Gauchos found themselves down by one with 2:01 to play.
“We’re not shooting the ball very well,” Williams said of Santa Barbara’s 61 percent free throw shooting against the Tigers. “Branduinn’s one of the best free throw shooters in the history of UCSB basketball. We’re not shooting the ball the way we’re capable.”
Davis found his way to the free throw line again, nailing both shots and giving the Tigers a 57-54 lead. After a swarm of Tigers stuffed Goettsche’s attempt near the basket, the ball squirted out of bounds back to Santa Barbara. Senior guard Jacoby Atako inbounded the ball to an open See, who stroked a game-tying three-point dagger with 1:17 to play. But Davis drove inside again, and an Atako foul gave Davis two more free shots and a two-point UOP lead. Goettsche made one of two free throws on Santa Barbara’s next possession, but Fullove tipped the errant second attempt to Atako. After a UCSB timeout, Fullove drove baseline but was swarmed down low and turned the ball over to UOP with 15 seconds left. Doubley sunk a pair of free throws, and See misfired a potentially game-tying three-pointer in the waning seconds.
“We aren’t really playing our best basketball,” Cook said. “It’s more confidence in ourselves than what they’re doing to us.”
Atako produced one of his best games this season in the losing effort. Coming off the bench for the last three games, the 2002-03 Big West Defensive Player of the Year scored 12 points on 4-7 shooting and grabbed four rebounds on Thursday night. Yet the Gauchos have been unable to string together consistent play from several players over a series of games.
“I’ll be inspired if [we play well in] four, five games in a row,” Williams said. “We’re very disappointed with what we’ve done. This is an ailment that needs a cure. I don’t think we’re getting the best out of our team.”
Santa Barbara travels to Northridge on Saturday for a 3 p.m. tip-off with the Matadors with the game airing on Fox Sports Net 2.