Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: UC Santa Barbara edges the Warriors in final seconds, 65-64

Ajay Mitchell sank a runner high off the glass with 1.9 seconds remaining Thursday night to lift UC Santa Barbara past Hawai’i, 65-64, to stay in first place atop the Big West Conference men’s basketball standings. 

A raucous and high-decibel “Alumni Night” crowd of 4,016 in SimpliFi Arena at the Stan Sheriff Center watched Mitchell score a game-high 24 points and Cole Anderson add 13 points off the bench for the Gauchos, who improved to 17-3 overall and 8-1 in league play. UCSB is now alone atop the BWC, one game ahead of UC Riverside.

Samuta Avea scored 13 points and Bernardo da Silva added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Warriors, who fell to 15-6 and 6-3, and had an eight-game home winning streak come to an end. Hawai’i is now tied with UC Davis for fourth place.

UH overcame a 13-point first-half deficit and led, 64-63, on da Silva’s layup with 2:45 remaining. But that would be the last score for the Warriors, as a miss by Noel Coleman with 23 seconds left gave UCSB the final possession. After the ball skipped off Kamaka Hepa’s leg and out of bounds with five seconds remaining, the Gauchos inbounded to Mitchell, who circled to the right and lofted his left-handed game-winner.

“Tough loss, great basketball game in the second half, horrible basketball game in the first half,” Hawai’i coach Eran Ganot said. “We were fortunate to be down nine with the ball (to start the second half), with the way we were playing. That’s the worst half we’ve had in a couple years, I think. That’s how bad it was, because there was nothing positive offensively, nothing positive defensively, and nothing positive on the boards. That’s all three phases.

“Surprised by that, disappointed by that, give (UCSB) credit for a great win on our home court. I’m really proud of the way we finished the half, and the second half was one of the best second halves — good offensively, good defensively, good on the glass, took care of the ball … gave us a chance. (But) you gotta play 40 minutes at this point of the year, against anybody.” 

UC Santa Barbara used a 14-0 run early in the first half to lead, 16-6, after Anderson scored on a reverse layup with 12:26 remaining. The Gauchos later stretched the lead to 31-18 after Mitchell scored on a runner with 4:51 left, but Justus Jackson swished a 3-pointer one second before halftime to cut it to 36-27.

Photo courtesy Chris Kadooka

“We just can’t have the first half like we did, it’s something we really gotta clean up,” said Avea. “It was a good fight in the second half, but we can’t spot teams points like that.”

UCSB shot 55.6 percent (15 of 27) from the field in the first 20 minutes, including 60 percent (3 of 5) from 3-point range. Meanwhile, the Warriors shot just 24.1 percent (7 of 29) from the field, including just 15.4 percent (2 of 13) from beyond the arc.

The Gauchos also out-rebounded UH, 20 to 13, including a 17-9 advantage on the defensive glass.

“I feel like in the first half, our defense wasn’t really dictating, they were just getting down (court) and doing what they wanted to do,” da Silva said. “And then on offense, we had a hard time finishing. When we have an offensive night like that, we just gotta be able to get stops, and in the first half we weren’t able to get stops.” 

The Warriors did an about-face to start the second half, with Hepa draining a 3-pointer from the left corner just 10 seconds in, igniting an 8-0 run capped by another Hepa 3 from the right wing to close it to 36-35 at the 17:35 mark. But UCSB bent and did not break, stretching the lead to 59-51 after a 9-2 run ending with Anderson’s 3-pointer at the 8-minute mark.

Hawai’i then chipped away and finally got over the hump on Avea’s pull-up jumper to put the Warriors ahead 62-61 with 3:41 remaining. But Anderson answered 25 seconds later with a fadeaway 18-footer from the right wing to put the Gauchos back in front, 63-62.  

At the 2:45 mark, da Silva then scored UH’s final basket.

Photo courtesy Matt Osumi

“Both teams were trying to figure out a way to score in the last three minutes, but couldn’t,” Ganot said. “We gotta be stronger at the rim both ways, we gotta be stronger on the glass. We’ve been out-rebounded three straight games. But I’m really proud of our guys and our team and our program and our fans for a tremendous effort in the second half. We just fell short. They’re hurting, it’ll hurt for a second, and then we’ll get back to work.”

The Warriors return to SimpliFi Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday against CSU Bakersfield. The Roadrunners are in ninth place in the BWC at 2-7, following a 79-58 home loss to UC Davis on Thursday.

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Big West Conference
Thursday’s Results
Long Beach State 70, at Cal Poly 52
UC San Diego 65, at CSUN 57
UC Davis 79, at CSU Bakersfield 58
at Cal State Fullerton 62, UC Irvine 61
UC Santa Barbara 65, at Hawai’i 64

Saturday’s Games
UC San Diego at UC Riverside
UC Davis at Long Beach State
CSUN at UC Irvine
Cal State Fullerton at Cal Poly
CSU Bakersfield at Hawai’i

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