Late run helps UC Irvine beat UCSB 61-58 in Big West semis
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Reserves Max Hazzard and Elston Jones combined to score 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting and UC Irvine held UC Santa Barbara without a field goal for the final five-plus minutes to beat the Gauchos 61-58 on Friday night in the Big West Conference Tournament.
Hazzard made 5 of 8 from the field and finished with 16 points and Jones, a redshirt junior, scored a career-high 11 with nine rebounds. John Edgar Jr. had 14 points and Eyassu Worku scored 12 with seven assists for UC Irvine (18-16).
The third-seeded Anteaters will play No. 4 seed CS Fullerton in the championship game on Sunday. UCI and the Titans split the regular-season series, with each team winning on the other’s home floor.
Jalen Canty’s jumper with 9:29 to play gave second-seeded UCSB (23-9) a 51-45 lead, matching the biggest by either team. The Gauchos missed their next four field-goal attempts before Marcus Jackson’s 3-pointer pushed their lead to four about four minutes later. Jones answered with a tipin, Hazzard made two free throws and Edgar added a layup to put UCI up by two before Worku hit a jumper to cap the scoring with 45 seconds remaining. UCSB scored just one point and went 0 for 9 from the field in the final five minutes.
Max Heidigger led the Gauchos with 18 points, but was just 4-of-16 shooting. UCSB shot 32 percent (18 of 56) from the field.
The Anteaters had a 31-1 advantage in bench points.
UCSB won just six games in 2016-17 and tied the school record with 23 wins this season. The 17-game improvement was the best in the nation.