SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Sophomore guard Gabe Vincent scored 27 points, including two on a layup with 11 seconds to play, halting a furious late Cal Poly rally and lifting UC Santa Barbara to a 76-73 Big West Conference men's basketball victory Thursday night before a sellout crowd of 3,032 in the Mott Athletics Center.
Cal Poly had wiped out a 15-point Gaucho advantage with a 20-4 run, grabbing a 73-72 lead on a three-pointer by senior forward Joel Awich from the top of the key with 1:29 to play.
It was Cal Poly's only lead of the second half in the Blue-Green Rivalry game. Vincent missed two layups and the Mustangs' Reese Morgan missed a three-pointer, setting the stage for Vincent's game-winning layup. After Cal Poly's David Nwaba missed a close-range shot with two seconds left, Eric Childress made two free throws with one second left to seal the win for UC Santa Barbara (7-8, 1-1 Big West).
Vincent, who scored 17 of his team's first 19 points, made nine of 21 floor shots, including seven of 11 from three-point range, for his game-high scoring total. Sam Beeler added 17 points and Michael Bryson had 13.
Cal Poly (6-9, 0-2 Big West), which has lost six of its last seven games after a 5-3 start, was paced by Nwaba (pictured above) with 16 points -- his team-leading 10th double-digit game of the season -- and a season-high nine rebounds. Brian Bennett added 13 points and six boards while Josh Martin tallied 12 points.
Rebounds were even at 40 apiece. Beeler corralled 12 boards for the Gauchos and Childress had eight. The Gauchos committed 12 turnovers, three more than the Mustangs.
UC Santa Barbara made 45 percent of its floor shots, including 11 of 19 from three-point range (58 percent), the second-highest percentage against the Mustangs this season. Saint Mary's connected on 61.3 percent of its three-pointers in a 93-63 win Dec. 14 at Moraga.
Cal Poly, playing its 100th Big West game under head coach Joe Callero, connected on 42 percent of its floor shots and was just 4-for-16 (25 percent) from long range.
Cal Poly led by six points in the early going, building a 16-10 cushion on a layup by Martin with 13:22 to go in the first half. UC Santa Barbara went on a 22-9 run to turn a 23-19 deficit into a 41-32 advantage with 1:56 to play prior to intermission. Michael Bryson capped the Gaucho sprint with back-to-back baskets.
UC Santa Barbara led 43-38 at the break and maintained the advantage throughout the second half until Awich sank his three-pointer with 1:29 to play.
The Gauchos won despite getting just six points from its bench. A pair of free throws by Mitch Brewe with 11:30 to go in the game were the first points scored by a Gaucho reserve.
Cal Poly received 40 of its 73 points from bench personnel, led by Bennett's 13 and Martin's 12.
The crowd was the third sellout in as many years between the Mustangs and Gauchos in the Mott Athletics Center.
Cal Poly, which played its first home game in 40 days Thursday night, remains home to host Long Beach State on Saturday night at 7 o'clock. The 49ers (8-10, 2-1 Big West) fell 58-54 to UC Irvine on Thursday night in the Walter Pyramid.
Photo above of David Nwaba courtesy of Alexander Bohlen