For a struggling UCSB men’s basketball team, a break from conference play for the ESPN BracketBuster game could have been a chance to gain confidence heading into the homestretch of the season.
Instead, the Gauchos blew a 12-point second-half lead and gave up a wide open layup with five seconds left in the game to lose to Sacramento State 51-50.
Santa Barbara has now lost eight of its last nine games, dropping to 8-18 overall. The Hornets improve to 13-12.
“The nonchalant lack of sense of urgency that these kids are playing with right now is embarrassing,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “[Sacramento] wanted to win more than our guys did.”
UCSB got off to a quick start as sophomore guard T.J. Taylor knocked down a three to spark a 10-2 run for the Gauchos. By halftime, Santa Barbara had maintained the lead, taking a 29-21 advantage. In the first half, the Gauchos outshot the Hornets 38.5 to 20.0 percent.
The second half told a different story as UCSB was outshot 45.8 percent to 28 percent. The Hornets also shot 40 percent from downtown.
Despite opening the second half with the same fire they came out with in the first and taking its largest lead of the game at 12 points with 15:18 to go, sophomore guard Mikh McKinney knocked down a jumper that sparked a 14-3 run by the Hornets. The Gauchos’ 12-point lead quickly became just one with 5:44 to go.
“We took really poor care of the basketball when we were up. We took casual shots, quick threes and we had turnovers that led them right back into the game,” Coach Williams said. “They fought and scrapped. We were outcoached, we were outplayed and we were outhustled.”
With the gap still just one point with three minutes left, Sacramento’s leading scorer, senior forward John Dickson, drained a three with just over a minute and a half to go to give the Hornets their first lead of the game at 45-47.
However, UCSB fed sophomore center Alan Williams in the post, who converted a hook shot on the right block to tie the game at 47 all. Dickson countered for the Hornets with a reverse layup, but with 17 seconds remaining, freshman forward Taran Brown hit a clutch three from deep on the left wing to take a 50-49 lead.
“We just ran a play called money, which gets us a lot of open threes in the corner,” Brown said. “My guy didn’t end up coming with me on that screen on the bottom block and I was able to get the open shot.”
With the final possession, senior center Konnor Veteto came out to set a screen for sophomore guard Dylan Garrity for Sacramento. Big Al helped hedge, trying to trap Garrity, but Garrity got around the two Gaucho defenders to find Veteto wide open for a layup on the right block.
“Al trapped, per design on the on ball screen and our wings stood and watched,” Coach Williams said. “Nobody rotated, so it’s a pretty big breakdown.”
While the Hornets had four players in double figures, Brown was the only player to do so for UCSB, tallying a game-high 18 points. Taylor finished with nine points as well as six assists. Big Al really struggled for UCSB. Although he recorded 11 rebounds and five blocks, he finished with just eight points on 3-14 shooting.
UCSB resumes league play next week when the team travels to Hawaii and Cal State Northridge.