UPDATED: UCSB tips in a shocking win over Warriors
The University of Hawai’i basketball team’s roller-coaster season took an unexpected drop on Thursday night in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Alex Hart scored on a tip-in with 2.5 seconds remaining to give UC Santa Barbara a stunning 56-54 victory over the Warriors in a Big West Conference game at The Thunderdome.
The buzzer-beating shot was not the surprising part. The Gauchos, who are statistically one of the worst teams in the nation this season, snapped an eight-game losing streak and avenged a 22-point loss to the Warriors just three weeks ago in Honolulu.
Hawai’i dropped to 12-13 overall and is now in sixth place in the Big West at 6-6. UCSB improved to 4-20 and 2-10.
“Give them credit, but I think we had a hand in that as well.,” Hawai’i head coach Eran Ganot said in a post-game interview on ESPN1420 AM. “You turn over the ball 16 times, unforced, you get beat on the boards against a team that’s not a very good rebounding team. We just weren’t very good today.”
The Warriors rallied from a nine-point deficit with less than nine minutes remaining in the game to tie the score at 54 with 1:24 remaining. Hart’s game-winning tip came off a missed 3-pointer by Clifton Powell. Hawai’i then could not get off a shot before the final horn sounded.
Gibson Johnson led the Warriors with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, but he was the only Hawai’i player to score in double-figures.
Sheriff Drammeh scored nine, and Leland Green scored seven in his return to action. He missed the previous three games due to illness.
Leading scorer Noah Allen, who scored 34 in the 78-56 victory over UCSB in Honolulu on January 28, contributed six points and six rebounds. He shot 2 for 11 from the field, including 0 for 7 from 3-point range.
“Noah Allen is a very good player and he’s been playing very well,” UCSB head coach Bob Williams said. “He killed us in our first game, but as a team we did a nice job on him tonight. I thought that was a big key in the game.”
Jack Purchase, Hawai’i’s leading 3-point shooter, went scoreless for only the second time this season. He shot 0 for 4 from the field, including 0 for 3 from 3-point range.
“Obviously, Jack was not himself today and we had to play through that,” Ganot said. “He changes things against a zone because of his ability to shoot and pass, but he picked up three fouls in the first half. He’s the one who was fighting through some things, and reality is you have to keep fighting through those. We learned the hard way.”
The Warriors shot just 36 percent (18 for 50) from the field, including 24 percent (6 for 25) from 3-point range. Exactly half of their field goal attempts came from beyond the arc against the UCSB zone defense.
“You can overcome some of that if you take care of the ball, but you magnify it when you have 16 turnovers, get beat on the boards, and half of our shots were 3s,” Ganot said.
UCSB – which lost two starting post players to academics in late-December, and then leading scorer Gabe Vincent to a knee injury two weeks ago – shot 44.7 percent from the field and out-rebounded Hawai’i 33-32. Hart led the Gauchos with 16 points.
Hawai’i had a 13-8 lead midway through the first half, but the Gauchos responded with an 11-0 run to take a 19-13 lead. UCSB led by as many as eight points in the first half, and eventually took a 32-26 advantage at intermission.
The Warriors shot just 36 percent (9 for 25) from the field in the first half, and committed nine of its 16 turnovers before halftime.
“The way we took care of the ball was silly,” Ganot said. “The way we shot around the rim. Obviously, the turnovers. Just the approach. This time of the year, everybody’s got illnesses and injuries. Everybody. We did not handle it right today. We struggled.”
Hawai’i tied it at 37 with 13:08 remaining in the second half after Green collected a steal and scored on a layup. But UCSB reeled off the next six points to regain control at 43-37 with 10:50 remaining.
The Gauchos increased their lead 48-39 with 8:39 left, but Hawai’i kept it close. Two free throws by Allen with 2:33 remaining got Hawai’i within one, 52-51.
The Warriors had possession of the ball trailing by one, but committed a turnover. UCSB’s Hart scored on a layup on the ensuing possession to give the Gauchos a 54-51 lead.
Green then hit an open 3-pointer from the wing with 1:24 remaining to tie the score at 54.
The Warriors will remain on the road for a game at Cal Poly on Saturday.
at UC Santa Barbara 56, Hawai’i 54
at Long Beach State 78, UC Davis 69 (OT)
Cal State Fullerton 56, at UC Riverside 55
Long Beach State at UC Santa Barbara
UC Davis at Cal State Fullerton
UC Riverside at UC Irvine
Hawai’i at Cal Poly, 5:00 p.m. (Hawai’i time)
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