March 8, 2002
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Nick Jones scored 21 points and Jacoby Atako sank two key free throws in the final seconds as UC Santa Barbara beat UC Irvine 66-61 in the Big West Conference semifinals Friday.
The third-seeded Gauchos (19-10) make their first appearance in the conference championship against top-seeded Utah State on Saturday night.
Adam Parada led the Anteaters (21-10) with 18 points, while conference player of the year and top scorer Jerry Green had 17 points and eight assists.
Adama Ndiaye made 3-of-4 free throws within 40 seconds to give Santa Barbara a 62-59 lead with 23 seconds remaining. Green's baseline jumper 9 seconds later closed the deficit to 62-61.
Atako was fouled in the double bonus, and his free throws put Santa Barbara up 64-61 with 6.3 seconds left. Mark Hull then stole the ball from Green and passed to Jones for a layup as time expired.
There were nine ties and 16 lead changes in the game.
Irvine was eliminated in the conference semifinals for the second consecutive year.