LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A three-point assault and 19 turnovers proved to be too much for UC Santa Barbara to overcome on Monday afternoon in an 84-70 loss to Akron in the first game at the South Point Holiday Classic in Las Vegas.
The Zips (8-2) are favored to win the Mid-American Conference and it was readily apparent why as they nailed 15 three-pointers, in 32 attempts, including 10-of-19 in the first half as the Gauchos (2-7) lost their fifth straight game.
"After the last two games (at South Dakota State and Vermont) we felt like we needed to double the post more often, that allowed more open looks on the perimeter and they really knocked them down," said head coach Bob Williams. "Our defensive recovery wasn't good and they took advantage of that."
Akron jumped out to an 18-6 lead before UCSB went on 17-3 surge to take a 23-21 lead on a slashing lay-up by Gabe Vincent with 7:44 left in the first half. Vincent scored eight of his team-high 16 points and made both of his three-pointers during the 17-3 run.
The pattern of falling behind and then battling back repeated itself early in the second half.
Behind 40-35 at halftime, the Gauchos scored the first six points of the second half, four by sophomore forward Alex Hart, to reclaim a brief 41-40 lead with 18:44 to play in the game. The Zips responded with an 11-0 run to take a commanding 51-41 advantage with just over 14 minutes to play.
Santa Barbara chipped away at the lead one more time. When T.J. Taylor drained his second three-point basket of the game with 10:15 on the clock, the score was 57-53, but it never got any closer as Akron went on another 11-0 run to seize a 68-53 advantage with 6:47 left.
Among the reasons that the Gauchos were never able to sustain the momentum were the 19 turnovers.
"As a team, we just made too many mistakes and bad decisions," Williams said. "That's something we have to improve. You aren't going to win many game when you make the type of mistakes we made today."
The Zips had four different players with at least three three-point baskets. Noah Robotham and Jake Kretzer each had four and finished with 15 and 14 points respectively. They had six players score in double-figures.
In addition to the 16-point effort by Vincent, John Green and Michael Bryson each had 13 points. Maxwell Kupchak made his first career three-point basket and finished with a career-high nine points. Alex Hart set a new career-high with a team-high seven rebounds. As a team, UCSB made a solid 46.4% of its field goals and outrebounded Akron 36-27.
The Gauchos remain in Las Vegas for another day and will play Iona College at noon on Tuesday. All games at the South Point Holiday Classic are being played at the South Point Casino, Hotel & Spa.