Ethan Igbanugo’s basket with 34 seconds remaining would prove to be the game winner as CSUN Men’s Basketball knocked off first-place UC Santa Barbara 72-67 on Saturday at Premier America Credit Union Arena. Atin Wright scored a game-high 22 points while Marcel Stevens chipped in with 12 points. Igbanugo finished with 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting.
In a game with 16 lead changes and 11 ties, the game would be decided in the final minute. After the Matadors drew an offensive foul with the game squared at 67-67, Igbanugo would find room late in the shot clock and drain a mid-range jumper to put CSUN ahead by two. UCSB’s Miles Norris missed a potential go-ahead three before the Gauchos picked up two offensive rebounds but could not score. Igbanugo ended up intercepting a pass with 12 seconds left.
Igbanugo would make 1-of-2 at the foul line, leading to the Gauchos having one last look to tie. With six ticks on the clock, Ajay Mitchell took a corner three but missed the mark. Wright corralled the defensive rebound and secured a CSUN win with two free throws.
Earlier in the game, the teams traded the lead several times before the Gauchos took a 13-10 lead on a Ajare Sanne layup. As they would throughout the night, the Matadors would respond. A CSUN 11-2 run, capped by 3-pointers from Igbanugo and Stevens gave the home team a six-point edge. The Matadors later scored five unanswered points to extend to their biggest lead of the night at 26-19.
UCSB though chipped away at the Matador lead, tying the game at 28-28 with a 9-2 run. Over the final three-plus minutes, the lead switched hands six times as Wright made two-straight 3-pointers including a trey to end the half for a CSUN 38-37 advantage.
Stevens nailed a three early in the second half while De’Sean Allen-Eikens converted on two free throws as the Matadors extended to a 45-40 lead. Minutes later, Dearon Tucker scored a putback layup to push the CSUN advantage to 49-43 with 14:04 to play. However, Tucker’s bucket would be the Matadors’ last made shot for four-plus minutes. Meanwhile, the Gauchos went on a 14-0 run, closed by a Cole Anderson layup that put the visitors ahead 57-49.
Out of a timeout, the Matadors picked up a dunk from Lamine Niang then worked their way to free throw line to pull to within 57-54. The Gauchos maintained their lead until Wright and Allen-Eikens converted on layups to square the game at 64-64.
Anderson knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Gauchos the lead again but Wright nailed a timely 3-pointer of his own to even the game once more at 67-67. Stevens collected a steal with 1:36 remaining then CSUN drew an offensive foul on Mitchell, leading to Igbanugo’s heroics in the final minute.
CSUN (5-18, 2-10 Big West) shot 44.0 percent for the game while making 9-of-20 from 3-point range (45.0 percent) and 19-of-20 at the free throw line (95.0 percent). On the flip side, UCSB (18-4, 9-2 Big West) had a 32.8 field goal percentage to go with 6-of-27 shooting from 3-point range (22.2 percent) and 19-of-27 attempts from the free throw line (70.4 percent).
Atin Wright made all 11 free throw attempts in the game while he finished with five rebounds and four assists. Marcel Stevens, who started in place of Dionte Bostick, converted on 4-of-8 attempts from 3-point range. Off the bench, Lamine Niang had seven rebounds, four points and two blocks in 12 minutes.
For UCSB, Miles Norris had a team-high 17 points to go with nine rebounds.
“I don’t think people realize how big a win that is for this basketball team and this program considering the magnitude of the team we just beat with how well-coached they are and how talented they are,” said head coach Trent Johnson. “I thought our guys showed great composure. We had foul trouble, some guys fouled out, but the guys kept playing. We had contributions from a lot of guys that haven’t played. Lamine was exceptional. I thought he did a really good job of coming in and just giving us a lift – catching the ball in the lane and finishing, and challenging. Atin has a tendency to do a little too much and he did for a period, but he regrouped and started making plays.”
“I just think that’s a really good win for this team and now we have to build off it.”
CSUN hits the road for a Thursday night matchup with CSU Bakersfield at 7 p.m. on ESPN+. Ghizal Hasan and Alan Zinsmeister have the call at GoMatadors.com/Radio at 6:50 p.m.
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