The UCSB men’s basketball team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Wednesday night, losing to Loyola Marymount 58-55, after leading throughout the majority of the game.
The Lions (6-2 overall) took their first lead with 4:15 remaining in the second half and held on for the come-from-behind victory after the Gauchos (4-2) were unable to get a shot off in the final seconds. After a late Gaucho turnover, LMU junior guard Jon Ziri missed two free throws with 10.1 seconds remaining on the game clock. UCSB came back up the floor and, after a near-turnover from junior guard Alex Harris, junior forward Chris Devine was unable to take a shot before the final buzzer sounded.
Back-to-back threes from Harris and Powell gave the Gauchos an early 22-11 lead and the teams went into halftime with UCSB leading 26-18. However the Gauchos were unable to extend the lead past 11 as the Lions clawed their way back into the game.
“We have to learn how to take that eight-point lead to a 15-point lead, and we have to learn how to take that 15-point lead to a 20-point lead,” freshman guard James Powell said. “We just have to learn how to execute down the stretch and put teams away.”
Senior guard Brandon Worthy scored 16 points for the Lions and senior center Matthew Knight recovered from missing his first 10 shots to finish with 14 points and eight rebounds. The surprise of the night was Ziri, who led LMU with 17 points and nine rebounds, after coming into the game averaging only 3.9 points per game.
“I thought [Ziri] was the difference in the game for them,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He was tough on the boards and he hit a couple of clutch shots. He really played a great game.”
Despite playing with a cold and needing stitches after the game to repair a cut on his lip, Harris led all scorers with 25 points. He finished seven-of-12 from the field and a perfect nine-of-nine on free throws. Harris and Powell – who finished with 14 points – were the only Gauchos in double-figures. Devine struggled against LMU’s big frontcourt and finished with only five points on one-of-seven shooting.
“[Devine] wasn’t himself tonight. It was not a vintage Chris Devine performance and not what we’ve become used to seeing,” Williams said. “I thought he struggled as much tonight as I’ve seen him struggle in a Gaucho uniform.”
After sitting out five games with a leg injury, senior guard Cecil Brown got his first action of the season, playing 21 minutes and scoring two points. Brown checked in four minutes into the first half, eliciting raucous chants from the crowd. The 2005-06 All-Big West performer showed rust at times, but the addition of Brown to the Gaucho backcourt should pay huge dividends down the road.
The Gauchos will head back to the road this weekend as they face the University of Portland (2-7 overall) Saturday night in Portland, Oregon. UCSB is 3-0 this season away from the Thunderdome.