Jan. 7, 2006
When it mattered the most, sophomore forward Chris Devine and the Gauchos made their free throws.
Despite struggling collectively as a team from the charity stripe (64.9%) and a pair of crucial misses by Devine down the stretch, Santa Barbara (6-7 overall, 1-2 Big West) managed to salvage a 77-74 win over visiting Long Beach on Saturday afternoon in UCSB's conference home opener at the Thunderdome.
After missing two free throws with 0:44 seconds remaining and the Gauchos leading 72-66, Devine was quickly granted a chance at redemption. Long Beach State's Aaron Nixon scored six points in 0:14 seconds to bring the game back to within reach for the 49ers at 73-72. Down just one and 0:17 showing on the game clock, Long Beach sent Devine to the line again in hopes of a repeat performance. This time though, Devine sunk both free throws to push the Gaucho lead to 75-72.
The 49ers did not go quietly as Jibril Hodges struck for the last two of his 19 total points on a backdoor cut to reduce the Gaucho lead to 75-74 with 0:07 to play. In the footsteps of Devine, freshman forward Tom Garlepp went to the line and converted both his free throws to all but seal the Gaucho victory.
WIthout the company of senior guard Cecil Brown, the team's leading scorer, Devine helped the Gauchos end their two game skid with 20 points to lead all scorers while grabbing six rebounds in the process.
Sophomore guard Alex Harris performed solidly as well, scoring 17 points on five of nine shooting and matching Devine with six rebounds.
While UCSB never relinquished the lead in the second half, Long Beach seemed poised for a conference road victory in the first. Trailing 18-19 early in the first half, the 49ers went on a 10-3 run to take a 28-22 lead, but the Gauchos answered with eight in a row and would never trail again.
The victory was the first for the Gauchos in conference play after they dropped their first two on the road at UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton. Santa Barbara will next take to the court Monday as they will play host to UC Irvine at 7:00 p.m. in the Thunderdome.