SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Gabe Vincent scored a season-high 21 points, Jalen Canty added a double-double and UC Santa Barbara used a 12-0 run late to break open a close game en route to a 70-58 win over UC Irvine on Saturday night.
The Gauchos (14-5 overall, 3-2 in the Big West) and Anteaters (8-14, 3-3) were tied at 47 when Leland King II made a 10-foot jump shot with 6:07 to play, kick-starting the decisive rally.
"Obviously that was big," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "To put them away late says a lot about our team. I thought we played well defensively all night, and we've been getting better and better on that end, but during that stretch, we did it offensively and defensively."
Tommy Rutherford, who finished with a team-high 17 points for Irvine, missed a three-point attempt with 5:52 on the clock and UCSB rebounded. On the other end, Canty was fouled by Rutherford while making a jump-hook from the side of the key. He made the free throw, pushing the advantage to 52-47.
Evan Leonard missed a well-guarded jumper for the Anteaters and Vincent made them pay, hitting a step-back jumper on the other end to make the score 54-47 with 5:03 remaining. After a steal by Vincent, Max Heidegger took a pass in the key from King and was fouled while making a nifty, double-pump jumper. He made the free throw to give the Gauchos their first double-digit lead of the game, 57-47 with 4:27 on the clock.
On the Anteaters next possession, Elston Jones missed a jump-hook and Vincent came down with the rebound. Vincent was fouled while attempting a dunk and hit the free throws, completing the 12-0 stretch and making it 59-47 with 3:50 remaining in the game.
"I am starting to feel better and better," Vincent said. "My knee feels good and tonight I really started to feel like myself. It was a lot of fun."
Vincent, who made had four assists, four rebounds and three steals to go with his season-high 21 points, had reconstructive knee surgery just over 11 months ago. He was playing with a brace on his surgically repaired left knee until a week ago.
"The brace just snapped in two in the game at Hawai'i and I tossed it," Vincent said. "I've played without it since and it feels good."
UCSB extended the lead to 13 points and Irvine never cut it below 10 the rest of the way.
The Anteaters entered the game leading all of NCAA Division I in rebounds. On Saturday, the Gauchos easily won the rebounding battle, 42-30.
"They are one of the best rebounding teams in the country," Pasternack said. "Our effort tonight, up and down the lineup. Leland, Jalen, Max, Gabe, everyone went hard to the boards."
King, who scored a season-low six points, more than made up for it by tying his season-high 14 rebounds. He also had three assists. Canty added 11 boards to go with his 20 points. Heidegger had 14 points, five rebounds and a team-high five assists.
After shooting just 33.3% in the first half, UCSB made 15-of-28 shots in the second half, 53.6%, to finish at 43.6% for the game. Irvine hit 39.0% for the game.
The win gives Santa Barbara perfect 9-0 record at the Thunderdome in 2017-18, its first 9-0 start since 1989-90 when it opened the year at 10-0.
The Gauchos will hit the road next week for a pair of games in Southern California. On Thursday, Jan. 25, they play at Cal State Fullerton with tip-off scheduled for 7:30 in a game that will be televised by Fox Sports West. On Saturday, Jan. 27, they will travel to UC Riverside for a 5:00 p.m. game that will air on ESPN3.