MBK: Gauchos hang on in final seconds to beat UC Irvine

Zalmico Harmon - UCSB Basketball

Zalmico Harmon was clutch in the final minute for UCSB.

Zalmico Harmon scored five of his seven points in the crucial final 1:30 of the game and UC Santa Barbara survived the tense final seconds en route to a 54-51 win over visiting UC Irvine on Saturday night.

The win was the third in a row for the Gauchos (16-12 overall, 9-5 in Big West), while the Anteaters (17-11, 10-4) had their three-game winning streak ended.

Harmon, who scored just two points in the first 38 minutes of the game, made the most important basket of the game when he made a three-pointer with 1:25 to play, turning a 46-45 UCSB lead into a 49-45 advantage.

Then, things got even more interesting.

UCI’s Alex Young missed a jumper and the ball was deflected out of bounds by the Anteaters, who intentionally fouled Harmon with 49 seconds to play, sending him to the free throw line for the 1-and-1. The senior point guard missed the first shot and Young came down with the rebound. He quickly pushed the ball up the court and found Travis Souza who drained a three-pointer with 37 seconds to play, slicing the lead to 49-48.

Following a timeout, Young fouled UCSB’s John Green with 33 ticks left on the clock. Green missed the front end of the 1-and-1, but Alan Williams, who finished with 15 points and 15 boards, collected the rebound and was fouled by Will Davis, II. Williams made the first free throw, but missed the second and Dominique Dunning collected the rebound.

The Anteaters worked the ball to Luke Nelson and he missed a three-point attempt from above the top of the key. Michael Bryson came down with the rebound, got the ball to DaJuan Smith, who was fouled by Souza just in front of the Irvine bench. Smith made a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left to give the Gauchos a 52-48 lead.

On the next possession, Nelson found Davis on a pick-and-roll. Davis made the lay-up and was fouled by Smith. He hit the free throw to cut the lead to 52-51 with five seconds to play.

Harmon was fouled by Young after receiving the inbounds pass and he made both free throws to extend the Gauchos’ lead to 54-51 with four seconds remaining.

After the Anteaters inbounded the ball, UCSB’s Smith fouled Jaron Martin with 1.5 seconds to play. Martin missed both free throws and Sam Beeler came down with the rebound as the game ended. UCI’s players tried to tip the ball out to its perimeter players for a three-point attempt, but were unable to do so.

“Tonight we really had to grind it out,” said Gauchos’ head coach Bob Williams. “That is a very, very good team, but we just kept grinding, especially on the defensive end and that made the difference. They (The Anteaters) are so well coached and they do so many things well that you are just happy to escape.”

UCSB made just 40.0% of its shots, but limited UCI to 43.1%. The Anteaters, however, were done-in by their free throw shooting as they made just 5-of-15, 33.3%. The Gauchos were 9-of-13, 69.2%.

In addition to Williams going for 15 points, 15 rebounds and three steals, Green added 14 points and Michael Bryson added 11 points, four rebounds and a pair of steals. Harmon finished with seven points and three assists. Gabe Vincent, who came in averaging 10.3 points per game, was scoreless, but he dished out six assists.

Will Davis, II led UC Irvine with 16 points and seven rebounds. Souza had seven points.

The Gauchos travel to Hawai’i for their next game. They take-on the Rainbow Warriors on Wednesday, Mar. 4 at 9:00 p.m. (PST).