Men's Basketball Drops Heartbreaker To 12th-Ranked USC, 75-73

Dec. 9, 2000

Box Score

Santa Barbara, Calif. - For once, the Gauchos wish they had not avoided overtime. Unfortunately, they did.

UCSB, playing its fourth home game of the season, was looking to play its fourth overtime home game of the year, but a Mike Vukovich follow-dunk off of a missed runner by Jacoby Atako bounced high off the back rim as time ran out Saturday and the Gauchos lost a heartbreaker to 12th-ranked USC, 75-73.

The missed dunk by Vukovich was one of the few shots the 6-foot-9 junior missed on the night. He made 7-of-11 shots and 4-of-5 free throw to finish with a career-high 18 points, 16 of which came in the second half as the Gauchos rallied against the Trojans. Vukovich added seven rebounds in what was his second straight outstanding game.

UCSB spent much of the night rallying against USC. When Brandon Granville hit his third three-pointer less than five minutes into the game, the Trojans led 12-0. With 14:00 to go in the first half, Granville hit his fourth three-pointer and USC had its biggest lead, 18-4, but that is when the Gauchos went to work.

UCSB went on a 12-1 run over the next seven minutes to narrow the gap to 19-16. The 12-1 run was dominated by the Gauchos freshmen. Forward Casey Cook made a layup and a pair of jumpers for six points during the run while guards Jacoby Atako and Branduinn Fullove each nailed three-pointers.

The lead never got larger than eight the remainder of the first half and the teams went into the lockerroom with USC leading, 32-26.

Sam Clancy opened the second half for the Trojans by hitting a short jumper. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw, giving USC a 35-26 lead. UCSB then went on a 14-0 burst to take a five-point lead at 40-35 with 15:25 remaining. This time, the run was dominated by veterans as Mark Hull hit a pair of three-pointers and a free throw for seven points, Vukovich made a jumper, a layup and a free throw for five points and Juliano Jordani hit a jumper.

USC, however, responded in kind, outscoring the Gauchos 14-2 to take a 49-42 lead with 10:58 to go in the game. For the next several minutes, the Trojan lead hovered between seven and 12. With 2:51 left, David Bluthenthal made a jumper to give USC a 72-60 advantage and that is when UCSB went on one final spurt.

Guard B.J. Ward made one of two free throws with 2:39 to go, cutting the gap to 72-61. After a tough defensive stand, guard Nick Jones drained a three-pointer with 1:55 left. With 1:36 to go, Hull was fouled driving to the basket and he hit both free throws, making it 72-66 USC. At the 1:07 mark, Cook hit a layup to cut the lead to 72-68. After Clancy made one of two free throws with 0:53 to go, giving USC a 73-68 edge, Hull responded with a three-pointer, pulling the Gauchos to within two at 73-71 at the 0:51 mark. After a timeout, USC committed a turnover, giving the Gauchos a chance and with 0:18 left, Bluthenthal fouled Vukovich, sending the junior to the line with a chance to tie the score.

After a USC timeout, Vukovich calmly sank a pair of free throws to knot the game at 73-73. USC did not call a timeout. Granville missed a short runner in the key with several defenders running at him, but Bluthenthal was there for the rebound and the follow, making it 75-73 Trojans with just over five seconds to play. That is when Atako went coast-to-coast and narrowly missed a high banking runner over the Clancy's outstretched hand and Vukovich almost capped his night with a game-tying follow-up dunk.

Vukovich's career-high 18 was a team-high for UCSB. He also finished with seven rebounds, a blocked shot and a pair of steals. Hull added 15 points for UCSB, all of them coming in the second half. In fact, Hull and Vukovich combined for 31 of UCSB's 47 second half points. Cook, a freshman, had his career-high with ten points and he added seven rebounds. Fullove had nine points and LaRon Bryant added eight for the Gauchos. USC was led by Bluthenthal who finished with 25. Clancy had 19 and after his quick start, Granville finished with 18. UCSB limited All-American candidate and Wooden Award candidate Brian Scalabrine to seven points and ten rebounds in 33 minutes.

UCSB is now 2-5 on the season, the Trojans improve to 6-0. The Gauchos will return to action on Friday, December 22 when they travel to St. Mary's for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Gaels.

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