A career-best performance from junior guard Alex Harris wasn’t enough to keep the UCSB men’s basketball team from losing its fourth-consecutive game and dropping to fourth place in the Big West Conference.
The Gauchos (15-10 overall, 6-5 in the Big West) lost 79-73 to Cal State Fullerton (19-7, 9-4 Big West), despite a career-high 35 points from Harris, which was the highest point total by a Gaucho since 1997. UCSB struggled from the free throw line, missing 10 free throws – including the front ends of several one-and-one opportunities.
“The disappointing thing is that we were 15-of-25 from the foul line and you can’t win games when you do that,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “If we make free throws, this is a much different game and we’re in this game late. We probably gave away 14 or 15 points at the line and you can’t beat a team like Fullerton when you give away that many points.”
UCSB trailed by double digits early on but the Gauchos went on an 11-4 run to take the lead at the start of the second half. After the Titans regained the lead, the Gauchos had a chance to cut the deficit to three with less than two minutes remaining, but junior forward Ivan Elliott missed a lay-up and the Titans scored on the other end.
Harris made 12-of-28 shots from the field, including five-of-seven from beyond the arc and added eight rebounds, four of them coming on the offensive end of the floor. He entered the game ranked 10th all time on the UCSB single season scoring list, but last night’s scoring outburst moved him all the way up to fourth. Fullerton senior guard Bobby Brown also had a record-breaking night, as he scored 29 points to become the Titans all-time leading scorer.
The loss all but ends UCSB’s hopes of earning an automatic berth in the Big West Conference Tournament Semifinals. The key for the Gauchos now is to win out and hope to finish third in the conference.
“We need to try to finish third and we need some help now from other teams,” Williams said. “We need to win out because if we do, we’ll have nine conference wins and we should finish third.”
The Gauchos will try to end the losing streak on Saturday when they take on UC Riverside (6-21, 1-11 Big West) at 5 p.m. in Riverside.