SANTA BARBARA — For nearly 34 minutes Saturday night, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team was positioned to do something no visiting team had done all season at UC Santa Barbara – win.
The three minutes that followed put an end to that opportunity, as UCSB used a dominant run down the stretch to break open a close game and wrap up a 70-58 victory.
Gabe Vincent had a season-high 21 points and Jalen Canty added 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Gauchos (14-5 overall, 3-2 Big West). Max Heidigger had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists and Leland King II added six points and 14 rebounds.
UCI’s Tommy Rutherford scored eight points during a 12-4 run that tied the score at 47-47 when he made back-to-back baskets with 6:48 to play. King answered with a 10-foot jumper with 6:07 left, then Rutherford missed a three-point attempt and UCSB rebounded. On the other end, Canty was fouled by Rutherford while making a jump-hook from the side of the key. He made the free throw, pushing the advantage to 52-47.
Evan Leonard missed a well-guarded jumper for the Anteaters and Vincent made them pay, hitting a step-back jumper on the other end to make the score 54-47 with 5:03 remaining. After a steal by Vincent, Heidegger took a pass in the key from King and was fouled while making a nifty, double-pump jumper. He made the free throw to give the Gauchos their first double-digit lead of the game, 57-47 with 4:27 on the clock.
On the Anteaters’ next possession, Elston Jones missed a jump-hook and Vincent came down with the rebound. Vincent was fouled while attempting a dunk and hit the free throws, making it 59-47 with 3:50 left.
Canty capped what was a 15-2 run with another 3-point play to make it 62-49 with three minutes left. The Anteaters (8-14, 3-3) trailed by double figures the rest of the way.
“Obviously that was big,” said UCSB coach Joe Pasternack, whose team improve to 9-0 at the Thunderdome, their home start since 1989-90. “To put them away late…