SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A trio of UC Santa Barbara players scored 20 or more points and a pivotal blocked shot at the end of overtime sent the Gauchos to a thrilling 84-82 win over visiting Hawai'i on Thursday night.
UCSB (17-5 overall, 6-2 in Big West) won its fifth game in a row and remains tied with UC Davis for first-place in the Big West. It was also the team's 10th consecutive win at home, equaling the longest winning streak to open a season in school history.
"That was a great game from a fan's standpoint," said head coach Joe Pasternack. "It had a little of everything. I was really proud of the way our guys defended in the overtime, putting us in a position to win."
After allowing the Rainbow Warriors (13-7, 4-3) to shoot 57.7% in the second half, helping them battle back from a nine-point deficit to force the OT, the Gauchos limited them to just 3-of-8 in the extra period, 37.5%, while making 4-of-5 of their own, including a pair of three-pointers.
In a tense game, the final 3:12 of regulation was especially so with seven lead changes and two ties. The second tie came at 70 apiece when Brocke Stepteau drained an open three-point shot from deep in the left corner with just seven seconds to play. Max Heidegger got a good look at a three on the other end, but it rimmed out at the buzzer and teams headed to OT.
Mike Thomas, who finished with a game-high 27 points, made a lay-up to open the overtime, giving Hawai'i a 72-70 edge. Thomas scored 10 of his points in the OT. Just 11 seconds later, Heidegger hit a long triple from straight out to help UCSB reclaim the lead, 73-72.
After Thomas missed a three-pointer, Leland King II attempted and made his only three-point attempt of the night at the 3:04 mark, giving his team a 76-72 lead.
"The play was actually designed to go inside," King said. "But when the ball was swung to me I was open and it felt good from the moment it left my hand."
"That was the biggest basket of the game," Pasternack said. "Leland wasn't shooting the ball well from distance in the last couple of games and to have him show that kind of confidence was great."
But the Warriors were not done. Thomas was fouled by Jalen Canty and hit a pair of free throws to carve the lead back to 76-74. Canty responded with a nifty lay-up of his own to push the score to 78-74. Again, however, it was Thomas scoring on quick spin move and lay-up, halving the lead again with 1:04 to play.
With 44 seconds to play, King took an outstanding feed from Gabe Vincent and hit a short jump-hook from the right side making it 80-76. On the other end, Thomas was fouled again, making a pair of free throws with 27 seconds left to make it an 80-78 game.
Heidegger was fouled by Hawai'i's Leland Green before the ball was inbounded and he made a pair of free throws, giving the Gauchos an 82-78 advantage. Vincent fouled Sheriff Drammeh with 17 second to play and Drammeh made just one of two free throws, pulling his team within 82-79. The second free throw was rebounded by Canty who made 1-of-2 from the line after he was intentionally fouled with 15 seconds to play and the score was 83-79.
A long three-pointer from above the top of the key by Jack Purchase made it an 83-82 game with nine seconds left. King was intentionally fouled by Drew Buggs after the ball was passed in bounds. He missed the first free throw, but made the second and it was 84-82.
Hawai'i quickly got the ball into the frontcourt and Stepteau, who finished with 13 points, drove to the right baseline and into the lane. Stepteau attempted a short jumper from inside the right hand portion of the key, but his shot was blocked by UCSB's Marcus Jackson and rebounded by Canty as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
"We talk about breaking the game up into four-minute wars," Heidegger said. "Tonight we had an extra five-minute war and we made some big shots and Marcus had the huge block at the end. We won the last war and that meant the game."
Heidegger, who was coming off of his first single-digit scoring game of the season, finished with a team-high 25 points, including three three-point baskets and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line. Canty had a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while King added 21 points. Vincent scored 10 points and had a team-high six assists.
The Gauchos made 31-of-62 shots for the game, 50.0%. They were also outstanding from the free throw line where they were 16-of-19, 84.2%. The Warriors shot 49.2% for the game and hit 14-of-18 from the line, 77.8%. UCSB had a 37-28 rebound advantage.
UCSB will try to set a new school record for consecutive wins at home to open a season when it hosts Cal State Northridge on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome. Plenty of great tickets remain available. For information or to purchase tickets, call 805-893-UCSB, or log-on to UCSBgauchos.com.