With the game clock dwindling and UCSB leading by two, Riverside fired errantly three times from three-point land until, with less than one second remaining, sophomore Glenn Turner finally came up with a defensive rebound to seal the Gaucho victory and home finale.
“I was just really thankful that Glenn was able to grab that rebound and not give them one more look. I fully anticipated one of those threes was going to drop though,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “It’s good for us to get a close win and have to battle, get stops at the end and actually get some scores down low. Lo and behold, we actually made our last four free throws.”
It was Senior Night for Santa Barbara, but with senior Casey Cook still in street clothes and senior Chrismen Oliver relatively silent from the field, the game was all about the young ‘uns. Freshman guard Derek Rasp scored 15 points on five treys, and freshman Chris Moore notched 10 points in 19 minutes to help lead the Gauchos to the 58-54 win over the Highlanders.
“Chris has really helped us in the past couple of games in terms of production,” Williams said. “There’s been three games in a row where I think he has stepped us, and it’s a good time to do it.”
To give the Gauchos the two-point advantage, junior guard Josh Davis dutifully capitalized with a banked floater in the lane with 51 seconds remaining. The rest of the game, save two free throws by Turner at the very end, was played on the Gaucho defensive end, where four rebounds found Riverside hands.
“I was pretty disappointed with myself on how I started the game, and coach woke me up and I just wanted to finish the game strong,” Davis said.
Riverside, which came into the game needing a win to keep its hopes alive for a slot in the Big West Tournament, received 20 points from guard Rickey Porter but no other double-digit scoring performances. The four-point margin made for UCSB’s closest victory of the season and tied the closest decision margin, a four-point loss to Riverside on Jan. 27.
“They’re a very difficult team for us. They went up to Cal Poly and they’re lifeless. Cal Poly beat them at their place, but they’ve given us fits,” Williams said.
Rasp, who has carried the Gauchos in the past two games with a combined 30 points, hit four threes in the first half to send the Gauchos to the locker room with a 35-30 lead. However, Rasp downplayed his role on the team.
“I think I can contribute with a couple big shots in the game, but I think we have more offensive-minded players than me out there and some guys that can do more things,” Rasp said. “I feel like I’m there to maybe bail out another teammate on a shot. I don’t feel like I need to carry the team offensively.”
UCSB continued to struggle on the boards and at the free throw line. The Highlanders out-rebounded the Gauchos 31-27, and UCSB went an abysmal 8-19 from the line.
Santa Barbara returns to action Thursday when it will travel to Irvine for a 7 p.m. contest against the Anteaters. Having clinched a berth in the Big West Tournament with Saturday’s win and sitting in fifth place in league, the upcoming road trip should serve as a tuneup for the Gauchos.
“There’s really no difference between the five [seed] and eight [seed],” Williams said. “It’s crucial to be in it, but there’s no difference between five and eight.”