(Hawaii Athletics) - In matchup of upper echelon teams in the Big West, the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team made a valiant second-half comeback before falling to UC Santa Barbara in overtime, 84-82, Thursday night at The Thunderdome.
Marcus Jackson blocked Brocke Stepteau's baseline jumper in the waning seconds of overtime to preserve the UCSB win and keep the Gauchos (17-5, 6-2 BW) on top of the Big West standings. UCSB also remained unbeaten at home (10-0), while also winning their fifth straight win.
UH (13-7, 4-3 BW), meanwhile, dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season and fell to sixth in the Big West. UCSB needed every ounce to hold off the Rainbow Warriors who overcame a nine-point deficit in the final seven minutes of the game.
Stepteau, who returned to action after missing the last two games, played a huge hand in the comeback. He scored 11 of his 13 points in the final five minutes of regulation, including a corner three-pointer with seven seconds remaining that forced overtime.
Mike Thomas also came up big as the senior forward led UH with a game-high 27 points and added 10 rebounds for this fifth double-double of the season. Leland Green scored all 12 of his points in the first half, while Gibson Johnson added 10.
Max Heidegger, the league's leading scorer, poured in 25 points to pace the Gauchos, including the go-ahead three-pointer in overtime.
UCSB led by six, 36-30, after a tight first half, and led 59-50 with seven minutes but UH chipped away and a Jack Purchase three-pointer put UH up 63-61 with 3:12 left. It was the start of furious end to regulation which saw the lead change hands six times before Stepteau's three-pointer in the waning seconds forced overtime.
UH scored the first bucket of overtime on a Thomas layup, but UCSB responded with consecutive three-pointers to take the lead, a lead they would not relinquish.
UH shot 58 percent from the floor in the second half, as both teams shot the ball well overall (UH – 49 percent, UCSB – 50 percent). UC Santa Barbara, however, did win the battle of the boards, 37-28.
The Rainbow Warriors now travel up the coast to take on Cal Poly on Saturday, Feb. 3. Tipoff is 7:00 p.m. PT/5:00 p.m. HT.