For 38 minutes, the UCSB men’s basketball team played well enough to win on the road at Irvine.
But for 38 minutes, UCSB did not know what Irvine junior guard Ross Schraeder was capable of. Schraeder torched the Gauchos for 21 points, including two consecutive three pointers in the final two minutes to lead the Anteaters to a 72-63 victory.
Down just two points at 63-61 after sophomore Glenn Turner’s two-handed slam, Schraeder found daylight and capitalized, giving the Anteaters a more comfortable five-point lead. After a UCSB miss, Schraeder’s teammates found him again — and again, as he clutched another three, his fifth of the second half.
UCSB appeared to be in control of the game at the beginning of the second half, turning a 31-32 halftime deficit into a 50-40 lead over a five-minute stretch. Senior guard Chrismen Oliver played the catalyst for UCSB over that stretch, scoring seven straight points. Oliver finished with a team-high 18 points.
After that, Irvine made quick work of the Gaucho lead. Down 52-42, Irvine looked to Schraeder to dig it out of the hole. Schraeder answered with two consecutive threes, and before the Gauchos knew it, their comfortable 10-point margin was narrowed to four.
Playing without injured power-forward Cameron Goettsche for the fifth straight game, the Gauchos had to rely on their guards on the offensive end and were forced to foul the Anteater big men on the defensive end. Senior center Greg Ethington was on the receiving end of the Gaucho hacks, and he would prove UCSB’s hack-a-big-man philosophy futile. Ethington went 9-10 from the free throw line.
The charity stripe was not as kind to the Gauchos, who again struggled to make free throws down the stretch, missing twice on front ends of one-and-one’s.
Freshman guard Derek Rasp scored 15 points for the third time in four games for the Gauchos. His most important points came late when he hit a three to tie the game at 59-59.
Life away from the Thunderdome continues to be a struggle for Santa Barbara. With the loss, UCSB falls to 2-12 on the road and back into a tie for fifth place with Irvine. Fortunately for UCSB, the loss affects the Gauchos postseason standing little. As it stands, UCSB would play Idaho in the first round of the Big West Tournament. Should Santa Barbara win Saturday at Long Beach State and the Anteaters fall to Cal Poly, UCSB will face Long Beach in the first round of the Big West Tournament.