March 6, 2003
FULLERTON, Calif. -
On January 4 at UC Santa Barbara's Thunderdome, Cal State Fullerton guard Ralphy Holmes made a three-point basket at the buzzer to send the Gaucho-Titan game into overtime. Thursday night, he didn't, and UCSB held on for a 63-60 win, securing the number one seed in the Big West Tournament and at least a tie for the regular season championship.
Once again, Holmes had an opportunity to tie the score, but his three-point attempt went wide right and the game was over.
UCSB overcame early shooting woes and turnover troubles en route to the win. The Gauchos trailed 8-3 just over seven minutes into the game, but they closed the half on a 30-17 run to take a 33-25 halftime lead. Junior guard Branduinn Fullove, who finished with a game-high 19 points, scored 13 points in the first half to lead UCSB. He made all three of his three-point attempts to keep the Gauchos in the game.
In the second half, Santa Barbara opened-up a ten-point lead, 39-29, on another Fullove three-pointer, but Fullerton used a 13-3 run to tie the score at 42-42 with 11:13 remaining in the game. Guard Anthony Bolton capped the rally with a three-point basket from the top of the key.
A pair of free throws by senior forward Mark Hull and a lay-up high off the glass by sophomore guard Chrismen Oliver that was goaltended by Titan center Pape Sow, gave UCSB a 46-42 edge with 9:26 to go. The Titans never tied the score again, but they did give the Gauchos several scares and when Sow scored on a lay-up with 16 seconds to go, the score was 61-60.
After a timeout, Santa Barbara brought the ball in against fullcourt pressure. Nick Jones raced into the frontcourt and hit Hull with a pass on the right wing. Jones, however, was fouled after the pass by Titan guard Fedi Holm-Hadullah. The officials called the foul intentional because Jones did not have the ball when it was committed.
The Gaucho guard made both free throws with 12 seconds to go, and UCSB retained possession of the ball. After another timeout, the Gauchos got the ball in bounds, and as Fullerton was trying to commit another foul, Sow picked-off an errant pass and got the ball to Holmes who drove to the top of the key for his last-second three-point attempt.
"That one got a little scary," said UCSB head coach Bob Williams. "They are a well-coached team that never gives-up. After the way we lost at our place, you didn't have to tell us that. We are very glad to get out of here with the win."
Williams was also pleased that the Gauchos were able to clinch the top-seed in the league tournament in the first of two chances.
"I am very, very proud of this group," he said of his team. "We lost that tough one in overtime to Fullerton early and came home from a bad loss at Utah State at 2-2. Since then we've gone 11-2 and that makes me proud."
Fullove finished with a game-high 19 points, making 5-of-6 shots from three-point range. Jones scored 15 and went 3-for-4 from beyond the three-poin arc. Hull attempted only five shots, scoring ten points. Oliver, who was forced to play 20 minutes because Jacoby Atako was in foul trouble, had six points, five assists and three steals. Holmes led the Titans with 15 points, but he made just 5-of-17 shots. Sow had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
The Gauchos improve to 16-12 overall and 13-4 in the Big West. The 13 wins equals the most league wins ever by a UCSB team. This year will mark the second time that the Gauchos have had the number one seed entering the Big West Tourney. In 1992, Santa Barbara finished second in the league, but UNLV was on probation and did not participate in the league tournament.
UCSB will close the regular season on Saturday, March 8 with a 7:00 p.m. game at UC Riverside. With the number one seed, the Gauchos are also guaranteed to play the 2:30 game in the first round of the Big West Tournament on Thursday, March 13 at the Anaheim Convention Center.