UC Santa Barbara, which led by as many as 17 points in the second half, ended up having to play beat the clock Monday night to hang on for an 81-78 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. victory over UC Irvine.
Much to the delight of 3,005 in the Bren Center, the Anteaters outscored Santa Barbara, 15-4, in a 4 1/2-minute stretch and trailed by just six (71-65) with 6:14 remaining when Kevin Floyd hit a six-foot bank shot. They continued to cut the deficit and when Wayne Engelstad hit two free throws with 50 seconds left, Irvine trailed, 79-78.
Santa Barbara Coach Jerry Pimm called time out and set up a special play for a special player, senior guard Brian Shaw. The Gauchos worked the 45-second shot down to less than 10 seconds and then Shaw worked his way through the lane--and a series of picks--and popped out on the baseline. Carrick DeHart passed him the ball and Shaw hit a nine-foot turnaround jumper as the shot clocked turned to zero.
A couple more seconds passed as Irvine frantically tried to call time out. After much debate, the officials decided Irvine should have two seconds left to try to tie. Engelstad's long inbound pass went through the hands of Mike Doktorczyk, however, and the favored Gauchos (9-1, 1-0), came away with their best start in 48 years. Irvine is 5-5 and 0-1.
"We're giving clinics in how to lose leads," said Pimm, whose team has led in the second half of every game this season. "You have to give Irvine credit. They came back strong. And we helped them with a couple of turnovers on our end."
Shaw, who finished with 22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assist and 2 steals, made 9 of 13 from the field.
"They were body-checking me as I went through the lane so I knew there wasn't much time left when I got the ball," Shaw said. "I got good height on the jump and was able to stick it. I heard the buzzer go off after I took the shot."
Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan wasn't so sure.
"Something went wrong," he said. "They got the ball with 50 seconds and there's only two left after he shoots. Something went wrong, but we didn't lose this one in the last minute. We lost it in the first 30 when we played lousy."
The game was tied midway through the first half, but the Gauchos put together a 13-2 spurt and led, 46-38, at halftime. Santa Barbara shot 56% from the floor, but fell well short of the 95 points a game Irvine was allowing in nonconference play.
Seems the Anteaters--who began the season as if they were bent on setting the record for most points allowed in every arena in which they played--have discovered a half-court offense.
"We thought our post guys could dominate their post guys," Mulligan said. "It turned out that it worked the other way. I think they're the second-best team in the conference (behind Nevada Las Vegas) and this is a game we could have won."
Santa Barbara's talent-rich perimeter (they start three guards) totaled 52 points. DeHart, last season's conference freshman of the year, had 14 and the other starter, Brian Johnson, had 10. Reserve Carlton Davenport added six.
Mulligan expected that, but thought his senior postmen--Engelstad and Frank Woods--would have big nights. Engelstad, who had just 5 points at halftime, rebounded to score 20. But he had eight turnovers. And Woods, who fouled out with 8:26 left, had 14 points and 4 turnovers.
Santa Barbara's sophomore forward, Eric McArthur, scored 13 points and had 10 rebounds, including 7 on offense.
Guard Natasha Parks made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 46 seconds Monday night as the UC Irvine women's team upset 16th-ranked Nevada Las Vegas, 68-64, in a PCAA game in the Bren Center.
Irvine (3-7 overall and 1-1 in the PCAA) had never beaten the Rebels in 11 previous games. Las Vegas (7-2, 1-1) led by as many as six points midway through the first half, but Irvine's biggest lead was the final margin.
Center Natalie Crawford made 7 of 11 shots from the floor, 9 of 12 free throws and scored 23 points to lead the Anteaters. She also had 19 rebounds, the second highest total in Irvine history.
The victory had a down side for Irvine, though. Guards Kippie Brown (foot) and Shurrell Johnson (ankle) will be sidelined for at least two weeks after suffering injuries.