Feb. 10, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - In the first meeting between UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State, Aaron Nixon couldn't miss as he scored 35 points in a 49er win. On Saturday night, in the Thunderdome rematch between the schools, Nixon made just 4-of-14 shots, but the fourth field goal came with just 0:00.4 remaining and it helped to give Long Beach a 68-67 win.
Nixon's shot actually gave his team a 68-66 lead, but the 49ers (17-6 overall, 8-2 in the Big West) were whistled for a technical foul when they celebrated too early, giving UCSB (15-7 overall, 6-3 in the Big West) a pair of free throws and a chance to tie the game. Senior guard Cecil Brown, who finished with a team-high 18 points for the Gauchos, missed the first of the two free throws before making the second. Santa Barbara had one last-ditch effort, but Ivan Elliott's length-of-the-court pass at the rim on the inbounds was tipped by a Long Beach defender and the score stood at 68-67.
The Gauchos led for most of the second half. UCSB used a pair of 10-2 spurts to open up 10-point leads. The final 10-2 run came with 6:56 left, giving the Gauchos a 64-54 lead. The 49ers responded by scoring the next 12 consecutive points to take a 66-64 lead with 1:46 remaining. UCSB tied the score on a lay-up by Elliott with 1:27 to go setting the stage for Nixon's buzzer-beater.
"You've got to give them credit," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "They defended very well in that second half stretch and Nixon made the shot he had to make. I am very disappointed. We had a great opportunity to win this game and we just couldn't hold on."
49er guard Kejuan Johnson, returning after a three-game suspension, scored a game-high 22 points. Sterling Byrd had a double-double for Long Beach with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
In addition to his 18 points, Brown had team-highs of six rebounds and five assists for the Gauchos. James Powell came off the bench to score 11 points, all in the second half. Chris Devine, who fouled out in only 23 minutes, and Elliott each added 10. Alex Harris, who entered the game averaging more than 20 points per game, scored just nine, all in the first half. It was his first single-digit game of the year.
As a team, UCSB shot 51.0% and held the 49ers to just 41.8%, but the Gauchos had 17 turnovers, including some key ones down the stretch. Santa Barbara was also whistled for 17 fouls as compared to Long Beach, which had just 11.
The loss drops the Gauchos to one and a half games back of the 49ers in the race for first -place in the Big West. In addition, Cal State Fullerton's win at Cal State Northridge tonight moves the Titans into second-place in league and UCSB sinks to third-place.
The Gauchos return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 14 when it travels north to play Central Coast rival Cal Poly in a 7:00 p.m. game at Mott Gymnasium.