Nov. 27, 2007
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Sophomore guard James Powell missed the biggest shot of his UC Santa Barbara basketball career on Tuesday night.
The shot, a three-pointer with less than half a second to play went in, but Powell slid to the floor and didn't actually see it go through the basket, giving the Gauchos (6-1) a come-from-behind 63-60 win over visiting UNLV (4-2). He did, however, hear it.
"The reaction of the crowd told me all I wanted to know," Powell said. "That was awesome. I didn't even have time to think about the shot when I caught the pass. I knew I had to go up and that's what I did."
Powell's three-pointer capped an outstanding second half comeback for UCSB, which trailed by a game-high 13 points, 29-16, when Rebel guard Curtis Terry made a long three-pointer to open the scoring in the second half. The Gauchos were awful in the first half, scoring just 16 points and making just 6-of-29 shots 20.7%. They were a different team in the second half scoring 47 points while making 15-of-23 shots overall, 65.2%, and a stunning 10-of-13 from three-point territory.
"We played with more purpose and urgency in the second half," said Gaucho head coach Bob Williams. "I thought it all started with defense. We raised the intensity level and our offense came on after that too. In the first half, I thought our poor shooting also affected our defense. We hung our heads a little bit and didn't play as intense from free throw line to free throw line."
Not only did Powell complete the second half comeback, he started it as well. After Terry opened the half by hitting his long three, Powell hit one to narrow the lead to 10, 29-19. Alex Harris, who scored 19 points in the game and 16 in the second half, hit a triple of his own to shrink UNLV's advantage to 29-22 with 18:46 to play. Less than a minute later, Powell struck again to make it 29-25 and then with 17:07 to play, Harris made a pair of free throws after being fouled on drive into the lane, pulling the Gauchos to within two, 29-27.
UNLV responded to UCSB's 11-0 run with a 9-0 run of its own. Joe Darger made a three-pointer to start the run, and then Wink Adams and Terry each hit threes to give the Rebels a 38-27 lead with 15:13 to play. After the teams traded misses, Harris made consecutive two-point jumpers to pull his team to within seven, 38-31 with 13:44 left. Las Vegas used another 6-0 run to extend the lead back to 13, 44-31 with 12:19 remaining. Another Powell three-pointer and a lay-up on a nice step-through move by Harris made it an eight-point game, 44-36, but a pair of free throws by Rene Rougeau extended the lead to double-figures for the last time, 46-36 with 9:51 remaining.
The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes, but while Rougeau was making a pair of two-point shots, Harris, Justin Joyner and Chris Devine were making three-pointers for the Gauchos. The third, by Devine, made the score 50-45 with just under eight minutes to play.
The lead stayed between four and eight for the next three minutes, but Joyner's second three-point basket of the game, with 3:40 to play, edged Santa Barbara to within one, 56-55. On the other end, Rebel forward Corey Bailey was fouled hard going up for a shot just inside the free throw line. He missed both free throws and Powell rebounded the miss with 3:06 left. After several passes, Joyner launched another three-point attempt from the corner, but the ball rimmed out. Devine was there for the rebound. He hit the follow and was fouled by Rougeau. The Gaucho forward made the free throw to put his team up 58-56 with 2:32 remaining.
"We hit a lot of big threes tonight," Williams began, "but none was bigger than the old fashioned one that Chris hit. I thought that was a huge play in this game."
UNLV got even at 58 with 1:50 to play when Darger made a pair of free throws after he was fouled on a rebound by Ivan Elliott. The Gauchos returned the favor with 1:32 left when Nedim Pajevic rebounded a Harris miss and was fouled going up for a follow. He made both of his free throws to give Santa Barbara a short-lived 60-58 advantage. Adams tied the score again with a jumper from the free throw line extended with 1:11 remaining. After a UCSB turnover with just 50 second to play, Adams had a chance to put his team up again, but his three-pointer from deep in the corner with 36 seconds remaining went in-and-out and was rebounded by Santa Barbara's D.J. Posley.
Following a timeout, the Gauchos worked the ball to Harris who drove into the late. With five seconds to play, he was nudged out of bounds, but while falling out over the end line, he rifled the ball off the leg of a UNLV player, stopping the clock at 4.8 seconds and setting the table for Powell's heroics.
In addition to his game-high 19 points, Harris tied for a game-high with seven rebounds. Devine added 10 points and seven rebounds, while Joyner had eight points, four assists and five rebounds. The Rebels were paced by Adams and Terry who each had 11 points.
The Gauchos have now won four games in a row and are off to their best start since the 1992-93 season when they started 8-1.
UCSB returns to the court on Saturday, Dec. 1, when it travels to Loyola Marymount for a 7:00 p.m. game against the Lions. The game will be carried live on CSTV.