SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Aaron Valdes scored 18 points while Stefan Jankovic had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead visiting Hawaii past UC Santa Barbara 76-64 on Thursday night.
The Rainbow Warriors (17-3 overall, 6-1 in the Big West) had four players in double-figures in their second win this season over the Gauchos (9-12, 3-5).
UCSB opened up an early 9-3 lead but by the end of the first half Hawaii had assumed a 36-33 advantage. Gabe Vincent, who finished with 15 points for the Gauchos, made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 36-36 with 18:56 left, but the Rainbow Warriors used an 11-4 surge to reclaim a 47-40 lead and never trailed again.
Santa Barbara got within 56-54 on a lay-up by Maxwell Kupchak at the 7:46 mark, but Hawaii used an 8-0 run to take its biggest lead of the game to that point, 64-54 with 3:41 to play. Jankovic scored the last four points in the rally.
"I thought they (Hawaii) kept their level of play pretty consistent through the whole game but I thought our level was very up-and-down in the second half," said head coach Bob Williams. "Hawaii is a good team, but maybe this was an effort thing for us too. I hate to call us out on how hard we played, especially after taking the early lead, but maybe we just didn't match their effort."
Michael Bryson finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for UCSB. During the game, he passed Branduinn Fullove and moved into 10th-place on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,423 points.
Quincy Smith (15 points) and Mike Thomas (11 points) gave the Rainbow Warriors four players in double-figures.
As has been a pattern this season, the Gauchos were hurt at the free throw line, making 7-of-13 overall, including 3-of-9 in the first half. Hawaii finished 22-of-34 at the line. In addition, UCSB had 14 turnovers and hit just 7-of-26 from 3-point range, 26.9%.
"I don't know what it is with our energy level playing here at home," Williams said. "Maybe we feed off the crowd on the road, or maybe it's an us-against-the-world attitude, but either way we are definitely a better team away from home."
The loss drops the Gauchos to 2-5 at home, including 1-3 in Big West home games. They are 7-7 away from home, including 2-2 in league games.
UCSB will get another shot to win a home game on Saturday night when it hosts Cal State Fullerton at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome.