When you’ve just lost your eighth straight road game, you need a sense of humor to maintain any hope of sanity.
“I’ll quote [former Saints Head Coach] Jim Mora: ‘You’re talking about winning the Big West Tournament?'” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said after being asked his team’s prospects of winning the Big West Tournament. “‘Are you kidding me?'”
Junior guard Michael Chambers missed a potentially game-tying three-point attempt rim out with three seconds remaining to secure a 54-50 victory for Riverside.
Down three with 18 seconds left, Santa Barbara tried to open up a three-point shot for hot hand senior Chrismen Oliver — who finished the game 3-5 from behind the arc — and then to junior guard Joe See, but the Highlanders were determined not to let either of the two deadly shooters beat them. See instead found another shooter, Chambers, for a semi-contested shot that just missed.
The fact that the Gauchos even put themselves into position to tie the score in the final moments was somewhat remarkable, considering they dug themselves into a 13-point deficit at one point, were dominated on the glass 44-24 and shot a measly 12-22 from the free throw stripe. UCSB’s shortcomings at those facets of the game ultimately led to its demise.
“They kicked our rear ends on the glass,” Williams said. “You can’t win on the road when you give up the first half.”
Santa Barbara’s porous shooting from the stripe also plagued it down the stretch. At one point, it missed six in a row with under five minutes left.
“When there’s fouls, you have to reap the benefits,” Williams said.
From the start of the first half, it was evident things weren’t going to go UCSB’s way. After what Williams perceived as too easy of an entry pass in the low-post on only Riverside’s second offensive possession, Williams immediately called a timeout to talk things over.
Trailing by 10 after the first half in a sluggish period filled with air balls, missed layups, and lowlights, Santa Barbara came out more aggressive on both ends to begin the second half. Williams admitted before the game that he had been pressuring junior forward Cameron Goettsche to be more assertive offensively in the low block. Goettsche responded with 14 points on 5-11 shooting mostly coming on layups and dunks. He also had three blocks, but was dwarfed by the fact that he only ripped down three rebounds — a statistic which haunted the Gauchos all night.
“It’s disappointing; 31 minutes for [Goettsche] and only three rebounds,” Williams said. “He had three blocks flying all over the place… but obviously he was not focusing on rebounding.”
Junior guard Josh Davis hit perhaps the biggest shot of the game with a trey with 1:50 left to tie the game up for the first time since the first minute of the game. But that was the closest Santa Barbara would get.
“We just missed it,” Williams said.
UCSB will get another chance to halt its eight-game road skid Saturday night in Fullerton.