Feb. 7, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Alex Harris scored 24 points, Ivan Elliott had a career-high 22, and the duo combined for nine points in the final 3:50, to help UC Santa Barbara hold-on for its third straight win, an 83-80 Big West decision over visiting Cal State Fullerton on Thursday night.
The Gauchos (17-5 overall, 6-3 in the Big West) led by as many as 13 points on several occasions in the first half, but the Titans (14-7 overall, 7-3 in the Big West), who had their four-game winning streak ended, slowly crawled back and finally tied the at 69-69 on a short jump-hook by Scott Cutley with 4:10 to play. After a timeout, UCSB guard D.J. Posley got the ball to Elliott deep in the right corner and the senior from San Francisco made his biggest shot of the game, a three-pointer from about 21-feet out, putting his team in front, 72-69 with 3:50 to play.
"That was absolutely the biggest shot of this game," assured Gaucho head coach Bob Williams. "It was huge. Ivan has shot the three well all year, but he's been a little off lately. That time, he just squared-up and knocked it down."
Fullerton got the ball to guard Josh Akognon, the second leading scorer in the Big West, but Akognon missed a three-pointer from just above the top of the key. The Gauchos let the ball go out of bounds. On the offensive end, they put the ball in the hands of the league's leading scorer, Harris, who was fouled on the dribble. He calmly made both free throws to put UCSB up by five, 74-69. A baseline lay-up by Titan guard Marcus Crenshaw, who tied his career-high with 23 points, cut the lead to 74-71 with 2:21 remaining.
In the frontcourt, Harris was once again fouled, and again he made both free throws to push the lead back to five, 76-71. A few second later, Akognon was fouled on the dribble just after crossing midcourt, and he drained a pair of free throws to pull Fullerton back to within three, 76-73. Elliott responded for the Gauchos when he converted a perfect pass from James Powell and hit a lay-up with 1:29 to play, making it 78-73.
After another missed three-pointer by Akognon, Santa Barbara guard Justin Joyner was intentionally fouled, but he made a pair of free throws with 1:01 to play to give the Gauchos a seemingly solid 80-73 lead.
Much of the edge, however evaporated over the next several seconds. Crenshaw scored on a lay-up with 48 seconds left, closing the margin to 80-75. After a Titan timeout, UCSB turned the ball over in the backcourt and Ray Reed scored on a lay-up, pulling his team within three, 80-77 with 40 seconds to go. Joyner was again intentionally fouled and went to the line for a pair of free throws. He missed the first, but the second hit the back of the rim, bounced to the top of the backboard, and fell through the to give the Gauchos a tenuous 81-77 lead with 35 seconds remaining. Just 11 seconds later, Crenshaw capped his night with a long three-pointer from right in front of his team's bench. It was his fifth three of the night, and it made the score 81-80.
Fullerton fouled Powell intentionally after the inbounds pass, and he calmly made a pair of free throws to give the Gauchos an 83-80 lead. Crenshaw missed another three-pointer with six seconds to play, Chris Devine rebounded and the clock ran out.
"We knew this was a big game for us," said Gaucho guard Alex Harris. "This is a key stretch of games and we had to get the first one."
Powell joined Harris and Elliott in double-figures with 14 points, making 3-of-5 shots from three-point range. Harris hit four out of his six attempts from outside the arc, and as team, the Gauchos were 8-for-14, 57.1%. Frank Robinson had 16 points, including four three-pointers, to add 16 points for the Titans. Cutley had a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Akognon finished with just eight points, making just 2-of-9 from the field and missing all five of his three-point attempts.
The Gauchos will remain at home to host UC Irvine on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome. UCSB will hope to avenge an early-season loss to the Anteaters in a game that will be broadcast on Fox Sports Prime Ticket.