UC Irvine’s goal of getting a 3-0 jump start in the Big West Conference for the first time in 14 years had turned into a pipe dream about five minutes into Wednesday night’s game against UC Santa Barbara.
The Anteaters made only one of their first 11 shots and the Gauchos made eight of 12. And with a little more than seven minutes elapsed, even the pipe dream had gone up in smoke. Santa Barbara had an 18-point lead, and the 3,914 in the Thunderdome were rocking.
“We were down right away by what, 100?” Irvine Coach Rod Baker asked. “It was just a long, long road back. And it wasn’t like we could say, ‘OK, you guys in yellow [Santa Barbara] hold off and let us get the game manageable again.”
The next 33 minutes were pretty much superfluous, but the Gauchos and their fans enjoyed them as Santa Barbara rolled up an 84-66 victory.
When Irvine, 5-5 overall and 2-1 in the Big West, tried to rally with a full-court press, the Gauchos (5-4, 2-1) used their quickness and raced downcourt for layups. And when Irvine did make a run in the second half, the Gauchos made a couple of critical three-point baskets to turn the momentum.
Brian Keefe led Irvine with 18 points, and was the only Anteater in double figures.