SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – As the lone senior on the UC Santa Barbara roster, Eric Childress couldn't have scripted a better final home game as he finished with a career-high 21 points and a career-high five 3-point baskets to lead the Gauchos past UC Riverside, 68-61.
Childress made all five of his 3-pointers in the first half as UCSB (5-21 overall, 3-11 in the Big West) eked out a 32-31 halftime lead after taking an early 12-point lead over the Highlanders (7-18, 5-9).
"I made three or four in a row and I was just thinking how surreal it was," Childress said. "It felt great tonight and it was great to get a win in my final home game."
Santa Barbara scored the first eight points of the second half and never looked back, building the lead to 15 at one point.
Freshman guard Clifton Powell also set career-highs with 16 points and four 3-point baskets. He scored 11 of his points and made three of his 3-pointers in the second half. It was Powell's final 3-pointer with 4:23 left in the game that gave the Gauchos their biggest lead of the game, 57-42.
"When Clifton elevates on his jumper he is so good," said head coach Bob Williams. "He loves to put the ball on the floor and go to the basket, but he can really shoot the three when he goes up like he was tonight."
Riverside chipped away at the lead and actually carved the advantage to five at 66-61 when Malik Thames made a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left, but the Gauchos broke the press and Christian Terrell went in for a breakaway dunk to give his team the seven-point victory.
"I don't usually sweat games out, but when you've had the type of year we've had you sweat it out even if you have a 30-point lead," Williams said. "We started both halves very well tonight and in the end we had enough left to get the win."
UCSB had, by far, it's best shooting game of the season as it made 22-of-45 field goals overall, 48.9%, and 9-of-15 from 3-point range, 60.0%. The Highlanders, on the other hand, made just 21-of-58 overall, 36.2%, and 9-of-32 from outside the 3-point arc, 28.1%. They were even worse in the second half as they made 8-of-32 overall, 25.0%, and 4-for-18 from long distance, 22.2%.
"We contested their shots well, especially in the second half," Williams said. "I think a lot of our guys played well defensively, but I thought Christian (Terrell) and Jarriesse (Blackmon) made a difference for us."
Terrell had four points, five rebounds and tied a career-high with four assists to go along with his outstanding defense. Blackmon added 10 points and three boards.
Childress and Powell weren't the only Gauchos to notch career-highs. Alex Hart had a career-high 15 rebounds and narrowly missed a double-double with nine points.
Riverside was led by Thames who had 14 points and made 4-of-9 3-point shots. Secean Johnson added 12 points and six rebounds.
UCSB, which has won two out of three games for the first time this season, will complete the regular season next week when it travels to Cal State Fullerton on Thursday, Mar. 2 and then Cal Poly on Saturday, Mar. 4. Both games will tip-off at 7:00 p.m.