Like the guy who had a chance to win a Porsche at halftime, the UCSB men’s basketball team did not come out on the winning end of its contest last night. The Gauchos (6-8 overall, 1-3 in the Big West) dropped their first home game of the season 70-66 to UC Irvine in the Thunderdome.
Senior guard Cecil Brown came off the bench to lead the Gauchos with 15 points while sophomore forward Chris Devine, senior guard Joe See and senior forward Cameron Goettsche all reached double-digits in front of a large crowd that topped 3,500.
“It’s great playing in front of a couple thousand,” Goettsche said. “It’s really nice to see all that support.”
Although UCSB topped the Anteaters in rebounds and shooting percentage, Irvine hit 11 threes and knocked down nine of 12 free throws in the second half. Senior guard Aaron Fitzgerald and junior guard Ross Schraeder led the Anteaters with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
“[Irvine] beat us at the foul line,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “They hit four more threes than we did. I thought they took advantage of every mistake we made. When we made a mistake, they found it and made clutch shots.”
Fitzgerald put away 10 of his 15 in the first half, going 2-3 from beyond the arc and helping Irvine to a 29-28 lead at halftime. Despite mixing between both their man-to-man and zone defenses, the Gauchos struggled to hold Fitzgerald to the perimeter.
“There’s no difference between zone and man once the penetration starts,” Williams said. “They’re very competitive. [Irvine Head Coach Pat] Douglass has got a good ball club. They can defend and they can shoot it. They’ve got a good blend of players.”
In the second half, neither team led by more than six points. UCSB shot a blistering 60 percent from the field after the half but could not match the Anteaters’ 50 percent shooting from downtown in the second half.
Brown drained a three pointer on a pass from See with 3:05 left to tie the score at 59. Senior guard Shamar Armstrong answered with a three from the top of the arc at the shot clock buzzer giving the Anteaters a lead they would not relinquish.
“They didn’t hit any shot bigger than the one that [Armstrong] hit with 2:28 left,” Williams said. “Armstrong hits that three right at the buzzer. They made big shots. It’s tough to beat a team when the make big shots.”
Santa Barbara did not go down without a fight. Down 67-61 with just 40 seconds remaining, UCSB got a layup from Devine and a three from See to put the Anteaters on the ropes. With a 68-66 lead and five seconds left, Irvine junior forward Nic Campbell converted on a one-and-one opportunity from the free throw line to clinch the victory.
“It was pretty brutal,” Goettsche said. “We were playing what I thought was some really solid defense. You have to give them credit for hitting big shots. That’s what you do when you win.”
UCSB hits the road this weekend, looking for its elusive first win away from the Thunderdome. The Gauchos travel to UC Davis this Sunday.