Hart's Late Tip-In Gives Williams His 500th Coaching Victory, 56-54 Over Hawai'i

Bob Williams (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Bob Williams (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Alex Hart's tip-in with 2.5 seconds to play gave UC Santa Barbara a 56-54 victory over visiting University of Hawai'i on Thursday night. The win ended an 8-game Gaucho losing streak and it was the 500th in the career of head coach Bob Williams. 

UCSB (4-20 overall, 2-10 in the Big West) never trailed in the second half, but the Rainbow Warriors (12-13, 6-6) tied the score twice, the final time 54-54 on a 3-point basket by Leland Green with 1:22 to play. 

After Green made his three to tie the score, the Gauchos turned the ball over, giving Hawa'ii a chance to take a lead, but Green missed a jumper with 33 seconds remaining and Jarriesse Blackmon collected the rebound, setting the stage for the dramatic finish. 

"The thing we wanted to do at that point was make sure we got the last shot," Williams said. "We wanted something with Eric (Childress) or Max (Heidegger) driving to the basket, but they defended that well and Clifton (Powell) got an open look and he's a good shooter off of a one-bounce dribble. Credit Alex (Hart) for being there to tip-in the miss. That was a big play." 

Hart, who finished with a team-high 16 points, scored UCSB's last six points over the final 5:39. 

The Rainbow Warriors tied the score for the first time in the second half at 37 apiece with 13:09 to play, but the Gauchos responded with an 11-2 run to claim their biggest of the game, 48-39, on a lay-up by Hart with 8:39 left in the game. 

But Hawai'i responded with a 15-6 surge over a seven-minute span to tie the score at 54-54. 

"This feels good," Hart said. "We've continued to work hard in practice and fight hard in games. It feels good when it pays-off in a win."

Thursday was Williams' ninth try at his 500th career win.

"It would have been nice to get to 500 in the fourth game of the season," he joked. "I've been in this (coaching) a long time and while I'm not obsessed with milestones, 500 is a big number."

When UCSB lost 78-56 at Hawai'i on Jan. 28, Noah Allen scored a career-high 34 points. On that night, the UCLA transfer made 11-of-14 field goal attempts overall and 3-for-5 from 3-point range. On Thursday night Allen was limited to six points as he made just 2-of-11 shots overall and 0-for-7 from outside 3-point range. 

"Noah Allen is a very good player and he's been playing very well," Williams said. "He killed us in our first game, but as a team we did a nice job on him tonight. I thought that was a big key in the game."

For a change, the Gauchos outshot an opponent as they made 44.7% of their shots to the Rainbow Warriors' 36.0%. They also had a narrow 33-32 rebounding advantage. The last time the teams played, Hawai'i had a 39-27 rebounding edge and shot 49.1% to UCSB's 28.6%. 

Hart added a team-high eight rebounds to his 16-point performance. Childress finished with seven points, four rebounds and he tied a career-high with six steals. J.D. Slajchert had six points and seven rebounds, Blackmon had six points and five rebounds, Powell had six points and a team-high three assists, and Heidegger added six points for the Gauchos. 

Gibson Johnson led Hawai'i with 16 points and 10 rebounds. 

UCSB will play its penultimate home game on Saturday, Feb. 18 when it hosts Long Beach State in a 4:00 p.m. game at the Thunderdome.