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College Basketball

UCSB Comeback Falls Short Against UC Irvine

UC Santa Barbara rallied from 15 points down to cut UC Irvine's lead to two late in the game but could get no closer as they fell 66-62 on Thursday night.

J.D. Slajchert made a pair of free throws to pull the Gauchos (2-12 overall, 0-2 in the Big West) within 64-62 with 1:33 to play, but the Anteaters (10-9, 3-0) rebounded a pair of their own misses and Ioannis Dimakopoulos made two free throws with 0:18 remaining for the final margin. Gabe Vincent missed a long three-pointer with six second left for UCSB.

"I thought we really played with a good sustained effort tonight," said head coach Bob Williams. "We fought for 40 minutes, which is something I didn't think we did at UC Davis last week."

The Gauchos actually led 13-6 early in the game and then 25-21 when Eric Childress made a pair of free throws with 2:53 left in the first half, but Luke Nelson scored the last 11 points of the half, nine on a trio of three-pointers, to give the Anteaters a 32-25 advantage at the break. 

Irvine scored the first four points of the second half on a lay-up by Dimakopoulos and a jumper by Jaron Martin, extending the lead to 36-25. A three by Clifton Powell stemmed the tide, but back-to-back triples by Martin made it 42-28 with 16:51 on the clock to make it a 21-3 run over two halves.

A floater by Maxwell Kupchak narrowed the gap back to 42-30, but after Tommy Rutherford made a short jumper, Nelson hit 1-of-2 free throws to give the Anteaters their biggest lead of the game, 45-30 at the 14:59 mark.

A 19-9 surge by the Gauchos made it a 54-49 game. Vincent had 11 points during the run while Slajchert and Alex Hart each had four.

"Gabe really stepped up at that point," Williams said. "He got us going and the other guys kind of fed off of him."

Irvine pushed the lead back to 10 before a three-pointer by Christian Terrell cut it back to 59-52 with 6:33 remaining. Martin responded with a three of his own and then Hart and Jonathan Galloway traded baskets and it was still a 64-54 game with 3:53 to play.

UCSB made its final charge after the four minute media timeout when Childress and Clifton Powell hit back-to-back threes just before Slajchert made his two free throws at the 1:33 mark to briefly make it a 64-62 game.

"We got contributions out of a lot of players tonight and that was encouraging," Williams said. "They are the biggest team in the league and the fact that we tied them in reobounding shows just how hard we battled."

The teams each had 36 rebounds.

Vincent finished with a game-high 15 points while also tying his career-high with six assists. Slajchert had a career-high 12 points and tied his career-hight with eight rebounds. Childress also added 12 points while tying his career-high with eight rebounds as well. Powell added 10 points and four boards while Hart had six points, eight rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

Nelson and Martin each had a team-high 14 points for Irvine. Martin added six assists and six rebounds.

As a team, UCSB shot 41.4% overall and 46.2% from three-point range. The Anteaters made 10 threes in 25 attempts, 40.0%, and shot 43.3% overall.

The Gauchos were, once again, playing without four frontcourt players, three of whom are out because of academic issues and a fourth, Jarriesse Blackmon, who suffered a fractured elbow in the team's Big West opener eight days ago.

UCSB will remain at home to host Cal Poly on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.

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