SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara nearly overcame a tough shooting night outscoring UC Irvine 19-13 over the final nine minutes of the game to force overtime, however, in OT the Anteaters' Max Hazzard came alive scoring eight of his teams 10 points helping to defeat the Gauchos at home, 66-62.
UCSB (15-5, 4-2 Big West) shot just 33.8 percent from the field tonight but gritty play on the defensive end despite a near 45 percent shooting night from UCI is what kept them in the ball game for so long.
With the loss, UCSB has now lost three straight against UC Irvine and five of its last six meetings overall. Additionally, UCSB now falls to third place in the Big West behind the only two teams that have defeated them this conference season, UCI and Cal State Fullerton.
To begin the game, UC Irvine jumped out to a 13-4 lead and it looked like the Anteaters could have an easier time than expected at the Thunderdome. But, as to be expected, UCSB stormed back to eventually take a 20-15 lead with 6:26 left in the first half. By the end of the first, both teams were tied at 28 apiece despite Irvine shooting 50 percent from the field and Santa Barbara shooting 35.5.
In the second half, however, UCSB struggled mightily at the onset. In the first 7:30 of the second half, the Gauchos shot just 1-10 from the field, accumulated three turnovers and found themselves down 39-33.
Fortunes began to turn once freshman forward Amadou Sow knocked down a shot to cut the lead to four. From there, UCSB and UC Irvine continued trading baskets for nearly the next nine minutes.
With the Anteaters up 47-42, Sow made a huge and-one basket and knocked down the ensuing free throw to cut the lead. Sow would finish the night with 13 points and was a huge reason UCSB rallied in the second half scoring 11 of his 13 points.
A made jump shot from point guard Devearl Ramsey moments later tied the game with 5:18 left in the ball game. With the game tied at 54-54 with 1:09 left, Sow drove down the lane and missed a layup but continued working, collected an offensive board, and put it back in to put the home Gauchos in front with just 44 seconds left.
Following a UCI basket, the Gauchos had the final shot of the game. Ramsey waited until the final seconds, drove down the middle of the lane, stumbled but got a floater up but not in the basket forcing overtime.
For the majority of the game, UCSB really shut down top scorer Hazzard, but in OT, the redshirt junior came alive and started the extra period strong for the 'Eaters knocking down two three balls. From there, UCSB tried to rally but two made free throws from Hazzard with 13 seconds left iced the game and gave Irvine the win. Hazzard finished the night with 15 points.
UCSB's poor shooting night was also not helped by the fact that UCI outrebounded the home team 44-39. Additionally, the 33.8 percent shooting from the field was the second-worst performance for the Gauchos this season. Finally, UCSB also turned in a poor performance from the stripe shooting just 10-16 from the line.
Defensively, Santa Barbara forced 12 turnovers and on the other side had just seven themselves to 14 assists showcasing that while the Gauchos did not shoot well at all they turned in great effort in other places which is what set them up with a chance to win the game at the end.
UCSB's next game will be against Hawaii at 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 at Stan Sheriff Center.