RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Despite giving up all of a 17-point second half lead, UC Santa Barbara escaped UC Riverside with a 68-65 overtime win on Thursday night at the SRC Arena. It was the team's third straight win.
The Gauchos (12-5 overall, 3-1 in the Big West) led 41-24 when Alan Williams made a baseline jumper with 17:11 to play in the game, but the Highlanders (6-13, 1-4) fought back over the next nine minutes and tied the score when Sam Finley was fouled attempting a three-pointer and made all three free throws with 8:23 to play.
UCSB pushed the lead back to 60-54 when Zalmico Harmon made a three-point basket with 2:16 left, but again Riverside fought back. Taylor Johns was fouled with five seconds left and went to the free throw line with a chance to put his team ahead. He made the first free throw to tie the score at 60 but missed the second. Michael Bryson came down with the rebound, but Harmon missed a 40-footer as the buzzer sounded to end regulation.
The Gauchos drew first blood in the overtime when Williams was fouled and made 1-of-2 free throws. After a Finley miss was rebounded by Kyle Boswell, Williams was fouled going to the basket again and this time he made both free throws, giving Santa Barbara a 63-60 lead with 3:44 to play.
UCSB got another defensive stop when Williams blocked Chris Patton's jumper and Taran Brown collected the ball. On the other end, Boswell was fouled and made 1-of-2 free throws to push the edge to 64-60 with 2:16 on the clock.
After Finley made a pair of free throws for the Highlanders, Michael Bryson was fouled while making a lay-up. He made the free throw go made the score 67-62 with 1:02 left.
Patton, who finished with a game-high 23, answered with another short jumper to cut the advantage back to three, 67-64 with 54 seconds to play.
Bryson was fouled while going the basket on the Gauchos' end and he made 1-of-2 free throws to push the lead back to four, 68-64 with 25 seconds left. Riverside then turned to its freshman, Finley, and he was fouled by Harmon and made 1-of-2 free throws to make it a three-point game.
Finley, who had 20 points, missed the second of the two free throws and Boswell came down with the rebound, but traveled, giving the Highlanders one more chance. After a timeout, they worked the ball to Finley who missed a three-pointer as the final second ticked off the clock.
"I thought we got passive during that stretch in the second half and kind of allowed them back in the game," said head coach Bob Williams. "But give them credit. They are a well-coached team and they never quit. I'm just glad we got out of here with the win."
Alan Williams led four Gaucho players in double-figures with 21 points. He also added seven rebounds, two blocks, two steals and a pair of assists. Harmon made a trio of three-pointers and finished with 11 points. Mitch Brewe added 11 and Boswell had 10. Eric Childress had a game-high seven assists.
After shooting 50.0% in the first half, UCSB made just 8-of-25 shots in the second half, 32.0%, and finished at 40.4% for the game. For its part, Riverside shot just 38.5% in the first half, but bounced back by making 12-of-19 in the second, 63.2%. The Highlanders, however, cooled off in the overtime missing five of six shots. For the game, they were just 3-for-21 from three-point range.
UCSB remains on the road and will travel to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday night for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Titans. The game will be televised by Fox Sports Prime Ticket.