UC Irvine had a victory and a berth in the Big West Conference tournament within its grasp in the final minute Thursday night at UC Santa Barbara. Branduinn Fullove snatched both away from the Anteaters.
Fullove made a three-pointer with 11 seconds left to give the Gauchos a 56-55 victory in front of 2,191 at the Thunderdome in Goleta, making the Anteaters' regular-season finale Saturday night at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo essentially a must-win game.
Irvine, 11-16 overall and 6-11 in the Big West, and Cal State Fullerton are tied for seventh in the conference, one game ahead of ninth-place Cal Poly. A loss to Cal Poly means the Anteaters would have to rely on a tiebreaker to get to Anaheim.
Irvine had one last chance, but the Gauchos' Josh Davis harassed Ross Schraeder into a missed jump shot along the baseline as the buzzer sounded.
Santa Barbara (15-11, 9-8) pulled into a third-place tie with Idaho.
"Miscommunication between two players left Fullove wide open, which wasn't the plan," Anteater Coach Pat Douglass said. "But our kids battled. We just couldn't seem to get it done at the end."
The Anteaters dropped to 1-2 without suspended starting guard Mike Efevberha, who faces allegations of theft stemming from a Feb. 23 incident at Crawford Hall on the Irvine campus.
Efevberha reportedly stole a backpack containing credit cards and a small amount of cash that belonged to an unidentified woman, UC Irvine police Chief Al Brown said Thursday.
The sophomore has not been charged, although his case was turned over to the Orange County Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.
Efevberha was not available for comment Thursday, and Douglass said he would not return this season.
-- Eric Stephens
UC Riverside 72, Cal State Northridge 71 -- The result clinched the Highlanders' first appearance in the Big West tournament in their first season of eligibility since moving to Division I three years ago. Center Vili Morton blocked two shots by Northridge center Thomas Shewmake in the final seconds to preserve the overtime victory in front of 1,095 at the Matadome.
It was the second consecutive victory for Riverside (10-15, 7-10) and only its second road win of the season. Northridge (11-14, 7-10) already has qualified for the tournament.
Riverside, which committed 22 turnovers, blew a 10-point first-half lead but held a 61-55 lead with 3:24 to go in regulation. It looked like it had the game in hand after Morton, who finished with a game-high 23 points, sank a pair of free throws with eight seconds remaining for a 63-60 lead.
But after a wild three-point shot by Northridge guard Davin White hit the rim with seconds remaining, Nate Carter of Riverside went up to get it and volleyed the ball back to White. His fall-away 30-foot three-pointer beat the buzzer to tie the score, 63-63.
-- Paul McLeod
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo 79, Long Beach State 66 -- Shane Schilling scored 26 points and Kameron Gray had 25 to lead Cal Poly to a Big West win in front of 2,354 at San Luis Obispo, ending 49er hopes of advancing to the Big West tournament.
Kevin Roberts led the 49ers with 25 points, Jibril Hodges added 13 and Lucian Graham 10.
Gray scored 15 second-half points and Schilling 12 as Cal Poly (10-15, 5-12) shot 50% in the second half. The 49ers are 6-20, 4-13.
Pacific 78, Cal State Fullerton 62 -- Pacific had four players in double figures and shot just under 61% in the first half to win the Big West matchup in front of 3,747 at Stockton.
Pape Sow led the Titans (10-16, 6-11) with a double-double, scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
Pacific (21-7, 16-1) was led by Miah Davis, who scored 23 points on eight-for-12 shooting.