Thirty-five minutes of quality basketball was just enough for the UCSB men’s basketball team to squeeze out a 76-72 win over San Jose State in ESPN’s Bracket Buster Saturday.
The Gauchos (12-11 overall, 4-6 in the Big West) held on for the win after letting San Jose State shrink their 18-point second half lead to just two in the final seconds of the game. The win gives Santa Barbara five straight, its longest winning streak since 2003. The Spartans (6-19 overall, 2-9 in the Western Athletic Conference) also gave UCSB its fourth win in the past five road games after starting the season winless in seven games away from the Thunderdome.
“Overall, I’m pretty pleased to get a win on the road in a nonconference game,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We played 35 minutes of really good basketball. I really thought that we were very effective inside.”
After a slow start, the Spartans led 6-4, six minutes into the first half – their only lead of the game. With 11:53 remaining, UCSB broke a 10-10 and went on a 21-2 scoring run that saw senior forward Cameron Goettsche score nine of his 13 points. By the end of the run, the Gauchos had a 19 point advantage, their biggest lead of the game, and finished the half up 35-20.
Goettsche and sophomore guard Alex Harris helped spark Santa Barbara with 16 of the 21 points from the bench in the first half. The Gaucho defense held San Jose State to just 30.4 percent shooting from the floor while forcing 12 turnovers. Although Santa Barbara committed 13 turnovers, it shot 52.2 percent as a team and went 9-10 from the free throw line in the half.
The Gauchos seemed to be on cruise control in the second half until San Jose State junior guard Carlton Spencer got hot, dropping 25 of his game-high 29 points in the second half on 9-12 shooting from the field. Spencer kicked off the Spartans first comeback attempt, sinking three treys, a jump shot and a layup over the course of three minutes, single handedly cutting the Santa Barbara lead from 53-35 to 57-48 with 8:09 remaining.
UCSB rebuilt its lead to 15 points with 4:05 left, hitting six straight free throws, before allowing a 17-4 San Jose State run which cut the lead to just two with 11 seconds left. Thanks to clutch free throws from senior guard Joe See, the Gauchos hung on for the 76-72 win.
“There’s no doubt for 35 minutes we were pretty good,” Williams said. “We don’t have a lot of experience handling a team coming at you when you have a big lead. San Jose did a nice job coming after us late.”
Senior guard Cecil Brown led Santa Barbara with 22 points, going 5-8 from the field and 12-12 from the charity stripe. As a team, UCSB shot 82.9 percent from the free throw line – its third highest percentage of the season.
“I think Cecil is playing his best basketball of his career right now,” Williams said. “Outside of his performance, our free throw shooting helped us out a lot.”
Spencer added five assists to go along with his 29 point, 11-16 shooting performance. Fellow junior guard Jared Cozad was the Spartans’ second leading scorer with 13 points. Goettsche also added 13 for UCSB, while junior forward Glenn Turner led all players with 11 boards on the night.
The Gauchos look to continue their recent success this week, playing their final two home games of the season, hosting Cal State Fullerton on Thursday and UC Riverside on Saturday.