MBK: Gauchos roar back in last five minutes, beat Hawai’i, 75-74

Eric Childress dribbles up court during UCSB's comeback win over Hawai'i.

Eric Childress dribbles up court during UCSB’s comeback win over Hawai’i. Childress scored 10 points.

Michael Bryson’s long three-pointer from the corner with 1:32 left completed a frenzied 13-0 run as UCSB overcame a 70-60 deficit in the last five minutes to take a 73-70 lead over Hawaii, and then the Gauchos got some help from a video replay and held on for an improbable 75-74 win on Saturday night.

With the score 73-70, UH’s Mike Thomas made a pair of free throws to pull his team within 73-72 with 1:08 left. On the other end, Gabe Vincent, who made one of four threes in the 13-0 rally, banked in a fade-away from the free throw line over the outstretched arms of two defenders to push the lead to 75-72 with 35 seconds to play.

The Rainbow Warriors (16-9 overall, 4-5 in Big West) called a timeout and set-up a play for Garrett Nevels, who finished with a team-high 16 points. Nevels’ three-point attempt with four second left glanced off the rim, but Isaac Fleming rebounded the miss and dribbled into the left corner, launching a shot over a trio of leaping UCSB defenders. The shot went in and seemingly everyone thought it was a game-tying three-pointer with 1.1 seconds to play.

The game officials saw it differently, calling the basket a two-pointer. After the Gauchos (11-11, 4-4) inbounded the ball, Bryson missed a shot from about 75 feet as the buzzer sounded, and then the trio of referees went to the replay monitor.

After brief review of the replay from several angles, the play stood and UCSB walked away with the win, despite playing its fifth straight game without leading scorer and rebounder Alan Williams.

“I honestly couldn’t see it from where I was,” said Gaucho head coach Bob Williams. “Until the guy at the replay monitor looked over and signaled that it was a two, I really had no idea.”

Williams, however, wanted to talk more about his team’s late comeback.

“We really only played well the last five minutes of each half,” he said. “But we really showed a lot of grit and toughness in the last five minutes of the game. Also, quite simply, we just started to make shots.”

Bryson finished with a game-high 21, the final three coming on the last of the four late three-pointers. Vincent and Zalmico Harmon started the rally with back-to-back threes that cut the lead to 70-66 with 4:04 remaining.

Following a steal by Bryson, Mitch Brewe was fouled on a lay-up attempt and made 1-of-2 free throws, narrowing the gap to 70-67. After Nevels missed a jumper, UCSB’s John Green got the rebound, but then turned the ball over. The Rainbow Warriors missed two more shots and the second was rebounded by Bryson who got the ball to Harmon. Harmon then found Green open in the corner and Green drained the game-tying three with 2:26 left.

A turnover by UH’s Thomas set the stage for Bryson’s three that broke the tie and propelled the Gauchos to the 75-74 win.

“All conference wins are big wins,” Bryson said. “But tonight was especially important because we had to come from way behind and we did it in front of a great, great crowd. That made it even sweeter.”

A season-high crowd 4,383 energized fans made a difference.

“The turnout tonight was great,” Coach Williams said. “There is no doubt that a crowd like that makes a difference. They helped energize us when we got down and that was a big difference.”

Santa Barbara, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half, had four players in double-figures. In addition to Bryson, Green and Vincent each ended with 11 and Eric Childress had 10. Mitch Brewe had seven points and a game-high nine rebounds.

UCSB shot 51.9% overall, including 57.7% in the second half. In addition, the Gauchos finished 9-for-18 from three-point territory, 50.0%, and that was enough to overcome 20 turnovers. UH made just 4-of-18 three-point attempts.

The Gauchos return to the court on Thursday, Feb. 12 when they host Long Beach State in a game that will tip-off at 7:30 to accommodate Prime Ticket, which will televise the game live.