With his collegiate career winding down, senior guard Cecil Brown hit one last memorable shot for the UCSB men’s basketball team, allowing the Gauchos to escape UC Riverside with a 68-67 victory.
UCSB (16-10 overall, 7-5 in the Big West) led throughout the game, but a late three-pointer from senior guard Justin Bell gave the Highlanders (6-22 overall, 1-12 Big West) their first lead with only 28 seconds remaining in the game. After a timeout, Brown hit a 10-foot fade away jumper with 7.4 seconds left to end Santa Barbara’s four-game losing streak.
“We were supposed to get it to [junior forward Chris Devine], but we had to go with a second option and I wanted to take that shot,” Brown said. “When I signed a letter of intent to come [to UCSB] I had no idea it would turn out like this with all the injuries, but to have things like this happen make it all worth it. After some heartbreaking losses it’s finally good to have one go our way.”
Junior guard Alex Harris finished with a game-high 25 points on nine-of-13 shooting, including five-of-eight from beyond the arc. Harris’s final basket gave him exactly 1,000 points for his career, making him the 21st player in school history to reach that milestone.
Brown finished with 16 points on seven-of-10 shooting. Junior forward Chris Devine scored 13 points to go along with nine rebounds and a career-high five assists. Despite playing only 14 minutes, junior forward Ivan Elliott finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
The Gauchos shot 57 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Highlanders 31-23, but late turnovers allowed UCR to stay in the game and eventually take the lead. After two Riverside free throws cut UCSB’s lead to 66-64 with 39 seconds remaining, Devine threw the inbounds pass away, giving the ball back to the Highlanders.
“We shot ourselves in the foot numerous times in terms of some of the decisions we made with the ball,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We dodged a bullet, no doubt about it.”
With the win, the Gauchos kept pace with Cal Poly (16-10, 7-5 Big West) for third place in the Big West. Both teams have two games remaining, and the Gauchos are looking at the final week of the regular season as a chance to build some confidence before the Big West Tournament.
“We have not been the same team in terms of our confidence as we were early in the season,” Williams said. “If we can get our confidence going right now, the timing would be perfect.”
After winning a school record 10 road games, the Gauchos now return home to finish off the regular season. UCSB will take on Pacific (11-15, 5-6 Big West) on Thursday at 7 p.m. before facing Cal State Northridge (14-14, 5-7 Big West) in a televised game Saturday at 4 p.m.