FULLERTON, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara fought back from a 16-point first half deficit to pull within two of Cal State Fullerton in the second half, but in the end the Titans were just too much, pulling away for a 65-54 win on Thursday night.
After scoring the first basket of the game, UCSB (5-22 overall, 3-12 in the Big West) was outscored 28-10 to fall behind 28-12 with 9:12 to play in the first half. Tre' Coggins scored 14 of his game-high 20 points during CSUF's (15-13, 9-6) run, including a 3-pointer to give his team its largest lead of the game.
"I thought, at that point, we kind of calmed down," said Gaucho head coach Bob Williams. "We ended the first half with some momentum and that carried over into the second half."
Santa Barbara chipped away at the Titans' lead and got it down to 30-26 before going into the locker room trailing 33-26.
After the teams traded baskets to start the second half, a tip-in by Jarriesse Blackmon and a layup by Clifton Powell pulled UCSB within 35-32, but Fullerton scored the next four points to push the advantage back to 39-32.
A 3-pointer by Powell and a layup by J.D. Slajchert at the 14:09 mark pulled the Gauchos within 41-39. They had three opportunities to tie the score over the next few minutes, but failed to do so.
A layup by Lionheart Leslie and an old fashioned 3-point play by Khalil Ahmad pushed the lead back to 46-39 with 11:05 to play. UCSB got within three on three more occasions during the final 10 minutes but could never get closer. The last time the lead dropped that low was when Eric Childress made 1-of-2 free throws with 7:04 to play to make the score 52-49.
A layup by Arkin Robertson, a driving scoop shot by Davon Clare and Coggins' fifth 3-point basket of the game gave the Titans a 7-0 run and a 59-49 advantage with 4:17 on the clock and the Gauchos never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
"I thought we had some very critical turnovers during one stretch in the second half and we don't shoot well enough to overcome that," Williams said. "As we always do, we played hard tonight and fought back early, but in the end just didn't have enough to finish."
One game after scoring a career-high 16 points, Powell lead UCSB with 14 points on Thursday night. He made 3-of-7 3-point shots. Alex Hart added 10 points and six rebounds while Childress had eight points, five assists and four rebounds. Childress also became the fourth Gaucho player to record 400 career assists and he now has 401.
As a team, Santa Barbara shot 44.4% overall from the field and for the first time this season has been over 40.0% in four consecutive games. Fullerton made just 42.1%, but nine of the Titans' field goals were 3-point baskets.
UCSB will play its final regular season game on Saturday, Mar. 4 when it travels to Cal Poly for a 7:00 p.m. game against the Mustangs.