MBK: Anteaters torch Gauchos in second half

IRVINE — UC Irvine used an 18-3 surge midway through the second half to turn a 42-36 lead into a 60-39 advantage en route to a 77-55 win over visiting UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night.

The Gauchos (10-11 overall, 3-4 in Big West), who were playing without leading scorer and rebounder Alan Williams for the fourth straight game and starting point guard Zalmico Harmon for the second straight game, kept it close for 27 minutes before the Anteaters (13-8, 6-1) pulled away.

UCI’s hot shooting from three-point range in the second half was the difference. After making just three from outside the arc in the first 20 minutes, the Anteaters drained eight in the second half.

The Gauchos, meanwhile, went cold from three-point range. After making 3-of-5 to start the game they were just 3-of-13 the rest of the way, including 1-for-8 in the final 20 minutes.

“We let that get away from us during that stretch in the second half,” said head coach Bob Williams. “They (UCI) started making some shots and we just didn’t respond. I didn’t think we showed a lot of mental toughness tonight. Every team has to overcome injuries and other types of adversity and tonight, we just didn’t.”

UCSB was led by John Green who finished with 12 points and seven boards. Sam Beeler went 5-of-7 from the field and had a season-high 11 points to go with six rebounds. Gabe Vincent added 10 points and six rebounds.

Alex Young and Luke Nelson each scored 11 points for a balanced UCI attack that had six players score eight or more points. As a team, the Anteaters shot 50.9% while the Gauchos made just 36.5% overall, including 33.3% in the second half. UCI also won the battle of the boards, 37-28.

The Gauchos are off until Saturday, Feb. 7 when they host Hawai’i.