After sleeping in the first half, UC Santa Barbara barely awoke to record an 80-74 victory over UC Irvine in a Big West game before 4,418 in the Thunderdome Thursday night.
The wake-up call came 20 seconds into the second half. The Gauchos' Lucius Davis scored and was fouled by Irvine's Khari Johnson. Davis, the conference's leading scorer at 20.7 points a game, and Jeff Von Lutzow got tangled up and exchanged shoves, glares and words. Davis made the free throw for a 29-22 lead.
That jump-started Santa Barbara and Davis, who had scored only four points in the first half. He wound up making 10 of 15 shots from the field for a game-high 28 points.
Von Lutzow led Irvine with 21 points on seven-of-11 shooting. But it wasn't enough for Irvine, 5-18 overall and 2-12 in the Big West. Santa Barbara is 16-6, 9-4.
"A lot of the conversation we just had in the locker room was like a lot of the conversations we've have after games," Irvine Coach Rod Baker said. "We did a lot of good things tonight, we just didn't do enough of them."
Midway through the second half, Irvine trailed, 57-47, after a jump shot by Davis. Two minutes later, the Anteaters trimmed the lead to 57-54, but three minutes after that, the Gauchos went back up, 69-60, and stayed ahead.
The Anteaters didn't get closer than three points the rest of the way.
All things considered, Irvine appeared to be in good shape by halftime, trailing only, 26-22.
Davis couldn't have played a worse first 20 minutes, scoring only on a 10-foot jump shot to open the game and another short jumper midway through the half. With only four points and four rebounds, Davis was never a factor against Irvine's man-to-man defense. He had one shot swatted out of bounds by Von Lutzow, and another shot along the baseline slipped out of Davis' hands and flew harmlessly into the air.
An Irvine upset wasn't out of the question. On Jan. 25 at Irvine, the Anteaters led the Gauchos by 10 points with seven minutes left before falling, 61-59. And two years ago, Irvine upset the Gauchos' NCAA tournament team to end a school-record 15-game losing streak.