Gauchos Battle Back But Fall to Hawaii in Big West Semifinal, 88-76

Michael Bryson had 22 points and moved into seventh on UCSB's all-time list with 1,593, but it wasn't enough as the Gauchos lost in the Big West Tournament semifinals, 88-76. (Photo by Rudy Huezo)
Michael Bryson had 22 points and moved into seventh on UCSB's all-time list with 1,593, but it wasn't enough as the Gauchos lost in the Big West Tournament semifinals, 88-76. (Photo by Rudy Huezo)

ANAHEIM, Calif. – After coming back from a 14-point deficit to take a lead late in the first half, fourth-seeded UC Santa Barbara couldn't completely overcome a 24-3 run by Hawaii that bridged the first and second, falling in the in a semifinal game of the Big West Tournament, 88-76. 

The loss ended the Gauchos' (18-13) nine-game winning streak and sent the Rainbow Warriors (26-5) into Saturday's championship game. 

Roderick Bobbitt, who finished with 21 points and four steals, scored 14 of his team's points in the decisive run that transformed a 34-34 tie into a game-high 21-point advantage at 58-37. It was Bobbitt's three-pointer to end the first half that kick-started the rally. 

"We were able to fight back from their run in the first half," said head coach Bob Williams, "but we couldn't overcome their second run." 

The Gauchos fought back after falling behind by 21, pulling within eight on a short jumper by Michael Bryson with 46 seconds to play, but they would get no closer as Hawaii scored the last three points of the game on free throws. 

"I was very impressed with our fight and grit," Williams said. "At no point did we quit. I liked what I saw from a lot of our guys. They showed a lot of heart and I'm proud of them." 

Santa Barbara was led by Bryson who made 3-of-7 three-point attempts while scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Bryson passed Mark Hull and moved into seventh on the school's all-time list with 1,593 career points. Gabe Vincent added 17 points and Alex Hart was a perfect 3-for-3 and added 13 points in 11 minutes, all during the second half comeback. 

"Alex was a great spark in the second half," Williams said. "It's not easy to come off the bench and get hot the way he did. "He really scrapped and played with a lot of poise." 

Eric Childress had five points, six assists and a career-high six steals, four in the first half as UCSB overcame a 25-11 Rainbow Warrior advantage to take a brief lead at 31-30 on a lay-up by Vincent with 1:40 remaining. 

"Eric really disrupted them during that stretch," Williams said. "I thought after the way we ended the first half that we would come out strong in the second half and I've decided never to use that halftime speech again." 

The Gauchos, one of the best free throw shooting teams in the Big West, fell victim to a poor free throw shooting night and needed to make their last six to finish 16-for-27. Overall, UCSB made 43.3% of its field goals, but just 29.6% from three-point range.

In addition to Bobbitt, Hawaii was led by Big West Conference Player of the Year Stefan Jankovic with 24 points. Aaron Valdes had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Rainbow Warriors, who hit 52.0% from the floor and 42.9% from three-point territory. They also drained 27-of-37 free throw attempts.