All season long, the Gauchos have prided themselves in their ability to close out games. Unfortunately for UCSB on Saturday, an inability to make shots down the stretch and a crucial turnover in the final minute allowed rival Cal Poly to flip the script in front of over 3,000 fans at home, stealing one from the road team in a 60-57 heartbreaker.
Needing a win to secure the number one seed heading into the Big West tournament, UC Santa Barbara (17-9 overall, 11-4 Big West) was in good shape, up 57-56 with only 30 ticks left after sophomore forward James Nunnally pulled down an offensive board. Coming out of a time-out however, junior guard Jordan Weiner was intercepted passing the ball inbounds, allowing Cal Poly to score the go-ahead bucket moments later.
After a miss on a drive by sophomore guard Will Brew, the Mustangs knocked down a pair of clutch free throws to put them up three with only five seconds left. Needing a quick tre to send the game into overtime, senior guard James Powell spotted up from beyond the arc but had his shot rattle out as time expired.
Sophomore guard Orlando Johnson led the way for the Gauchos with 21 points and seven rebounds but was the only UCSB player to finish the game in double figures. As a whole, Santa Barbara had one of its worst shooting nights of the season, hitting only 34 percent of its field goals.
Holding the Mustangs to 31.6 percent shooting for the game, UCSB saw its second-half lead grow to nine before Cal Poly shot its way back into the game.
Trailing by eight past the halfway point in the second period, an unanswered trifecta on the Mustang side gave the home team their first lead since holding a 16-14 advantage in the first.
A much needed perimeter hit from junior guard Justin Joyner reclaimed the lead for Santa Barbara at 56-54 with less than six minutes to go, but UCSB could not hit a field goal after Joyner’s three, going 0-for-8 leading up to the final buzzer.