Not even eight minutes were gone in UC Irvine’s game against UC Santa Barbara Saturday, and already the Anteaters were behind by 20 points.
Almost as quickly, they were tied at halftime after a slew of free throws and Jeff Von Lutzow’s fall-away three-pointer at the buzzer.
And then, before you knew it, Irvine had lost another game, 83-81.
The 12-point lead the Gauchos took into the second half held--just barely--in Santa Barbara’s Big West Conference victory before 5,378 in the Events Center.
“We made a good comeback . . . " Jeff Herdman said, after watching it fail. “We can’t do this if we want to win, especially on the road.”
Irvine’s Cornelius Banks hit a three-pointer with five seconds left to cut Santa Barbara’s lead to two, but the Anteaters had no timeouts left, and Santa Barbara (8-6, 3-3) let time expire without inbounding the ball.
Irvine (7-12, 2-5) might have had a better chance with 16 seconds left, when Paul Johnson missed the second of two free throws. Herdman was there for the rebound, but the ball hung on the rim. By the time it fell, Herdman was out of position, and he fouled out when he grabbed Gary Gray. Instead of a three-point lead with Herdman in the game, Irvine trailed by five after Gray’s free throws and was without its top three-point shooter.
“UCI kept coming back, coming back,” said Irvine Coach Bill Mulligan, whose team has lost three in a row. “But we couldn’t get over the hump. We were impatient on offense. We needed this win.”
There were two things the Anteaters couldn’t quite get a handle on Saturday.
One was their own offense, stymied by impatience and a Gaucho defense that stuck close by Herdman and Dylan Rigdon.
The other was Lucius Davis, who scored 30 points, most of them on medium-range jumpers and and dunks.
Davis made 10 of 14 field goals and 10 of 12 free throws.
He also did most of the work on Herdman, who finished with 22 points. Davis guarded Herdman closely and blocked two of his shots.
That kind of attention, focused on Herdman and Rigdon, is giving the Anteaters trouble.
“Everybody’s overplaying Herdman and Rigdon, and we haven’t had any patience,” Mulligan said. “If we have patience, we can get the ball to our good shooters or in to (Ricky) Butler.”
Rigdon, one of five from the field, was held to six points. Butler scored 15, making five of 10 shots, and surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career.
“We’ve got to get the ball to Butler more,” Mulligan said.
Irvine’s offense was stalled for much of the game and the Anteaters’ bailed themselves out only by hitting a season-high 88% from the line, making 30 of 34.
UC Santa Barbara blew out the Anteaters in the first half. Butler hit a shot a little more than a minute into the game to tie the score, 2-2. But that basket proved to be the Anteaters’ only field goal of the first 8 1/2 minutes.
Before long, Santa Barbara was ahead by 20, 26-6. The Gauchos had pulled away with a 20-2 run that included 13 consecutive points, with Davis leading the way.
Irvine couldn’t get its offense untracked, but it turned out it didn’t need to. Santa Barbara was whistled for 13 fouls in the first half and Irvine made 17 of 21 shots from the line.
Irvine fell behind by seven points early in the second half, but again came back. Rigdon’s layup gave Irvine its first lead, 52-51, with 12 minutes left, but it didn’t last long.
Irvine trailed by one, 62-61, before a four-minute scoreless streak. Herdman broke it with a three-pointer and hit another one to get the Anteaters back to 73-67.
But Santa Barbara went head by nine points, on another of Davis’ dunks, and Irvine couldn’t catch the Gauchos again.
Ricky Butler surpassed 1,000-point mark for his career Saturday, and stands at 1,013. Other UC Irvine players who have reached 1,000 points: Tod Murphy, Dave Baker, Wayne Engelstad, Ben McDonald, Kevin Magee, Johnny Rogers, Jeff Cunningham, Mike Heckman, Jerry Maras and Bill Moore. . . . Point guard Gerald McDonald was not in the starting lineup for the second time this season. McDonald was shooting only 26% from the field in Big West Conference games. He made three of five shots Saturday, including one of two three-pointers, and started the second half. . . . Forward Jeff Von Lutzow returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the California game Dec. 22, and Coach Bill Mulligan said he “played well.” Von Lutzow had 14 points, five rebounds and two outstanding saves. . . . There was a moment of silence before the game because of the war in the Persian Gulf. . . . Next: Irvine plays at 21st-ranked New Mexico State on Monday.