EL PASO, Texas – The Gauchos had been in these situations before. UC Santa Barbara need only look back two nights earlier to a one-point defeat that came off the heels of a buzzer-beating heartbreaker.
This time, though, UCSB was the one breaking hearts.
Sweets Underwood's five-foot shot off an inbounds play fell through with 0.4 seconds left and UCSB won its first road game of the season, 49-48, handing UTEP its first loss of the season.
The Miners entered Wednesday night's game having won 10 straight to open the season, nine of those coming by double digits, and the Miners were receiving votes in one of the Top-25 polls.
However, the battle-tested Gauchos had been in all kinds of close games this season and that experience helped them gut out the one-point victory. Monday night UCSB lost on a buzzer-beater to New Mexico State, but Underwood's bucket mended the teams hearts.
After Gloria Brown missed the second free throw with 1:13 left, Melissa Zornig hit a shot in the paint to cut UTEP's lead to 48-47. Kelli Willingham missed a long three-pointer on the other end and Underwood grabbed the rebound.
Nicole Nesbit brought the ball up the court with about nine seconds to play and, trying to get to the rim, lost control of the ball, but was able to fall on it and call timeout with 1.7 seconds remaining.
UCSB coach Carlene Mitchell set up the inbounds play from under UCSB's hoop and Kelsey Adrian's lob found Underwood perfectly. Underwood caught the ball, then rose back up and put up the shot that rattled through the rim to stun UTEP.
Initially the buzzer sounded and the Gauchos celebrated but the officials put 0.4 back on the clock, although UTEP had the length of the court to go. The inbounds pass was knocked away by Nesbit and UCSB reached euphoria.
"Sweets is our most athletic player and Kirsten Tilleman & Mel said they'd set screens," Mitchell said. "We knew there'd be a lot of traffic and we told Sweets to go up and get it and we knew it was one of those games. It was our game to win."
UCSB trailed by seven points with 2:56 left but a three-pointer by Adrian and two free throws by Zornig brought the Gauchos to 47-45 with 1:37 left.
Underwood finished the game just 2 of 10 from the floor, but the last one was the sweetest. Or, the Sweets-est.