LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Senior Sam Beeler scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half and Gabe Vincent led all scorers with 20 points as UC Santa Barbara battled back from a 15-point first half deficit to record its first postseason win in 26 years, 70-63 over Northern Illinois in a quarterfinal game at the Vegas 16 on Monday.
The Gauchos (19-13) have now won 10 out of their last 11 games after outscoring the Huskies (21-13) 38-20 in the second half.
“That says a lot about this team,” said head coach Bob Williams. “We weren’t satisfied with just going to a postseason tournament, we wanted to win a game in the postseason. I’m proud of these guys.”
UCSB led by four early and still held a 19-18 advantage at the 9:31 mark of the first half, but NIU 25-9 run over the next 6:47 to take a commanding 43-28 lead. The Gauchos scored the final four points of the first half to make the score 43-32 at halftime.
“I thought we seemed a little tentative in the first half,” Williams said. “They were the aggressors on both ends of the court and it showed because they had more free throws and rebounds, and we had more turnovers.”
The second half didn’t get off to a rousing start for Santa Barbara as the Huskies converted a steal by Chuks Iroegbu on the first possession into a breakaway lay-up by Travon Baker to push their lead to 45-32, but after that things started to turn.
A driving layup by Eric Childress, a free throw line jumper by Vincent, a three-pointer from Michael Bryson and a put-back by Beeler gave the Gauchos a 9-0 surge and made it a 45-41 game with 15:04 to play in the game.
NIU would bend but not break and still possessed a 56-52 lead on a pair of Laytwan Porter free throws with seven minutes left.
Following a three by Vincent, Maxwell Kupchak scored on a layup to give UCSB its first lead since midway through the first half, 57-56. Beeler tacked-on a layup of his own to give his team a 59-56 lead with 5:27 on the clock.
The Huskies cut the edge to one on two more occasions, the final on a three by Marshawn Wilson with 2:01 left to make it 64-63, but the Gauchos ended the game on a 6-0 run, including Beeler’s final basket, two free throws from Childress and one apiece from Bryson and Vincent.
NIU made just 7-of-27 shots overall in the second half, including 1-of-7 from three-point range, to finish at 38.9% overall. UCSB was 14-of-29 in the second half, 48.3%, and finished at 46.4% for the game.
Beeler made 8-of-9 shots from the field and added six rebounds to go with his 16 points. Bryson had nine points and six rebounds. He also made two three-point baskets to extend his own school record to 237 and he became just the seventh Gaucho player to score more than 1,600 career points. Bryson will enter the Vegas 16 semifinal with 1,603 points.
DaJuan Smith had four points, three rebounds and he tied Childress for team-high in assists with three. Jarriesse Blackmon battled foul trouble but had six points, four rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot in 16 minutes.
The last UCSB win in postseason play came over the University of Houston in the first round of the 1990 NCAA Tournament in Knoxville, Tenn.
The Gauchos will play Old Dominion, a 75-59 winner over Tennessee Tech, in a Vegas 16 semifinal game on Tuesday evening at 6:00 p.m. at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.