Irvine, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Chris McNealy paced four teammates in double figures with 17 points to lead the UC Irvine Anteaters past the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, 71-60, in a marquee Big West Conference showdown at the Bren Events Center.
Will Davis II tallied 14 points and eight rebounds for UCI (19-10, 10-3 Big West), which has won six of its last seven to take sole possession of first place in the league. Luke Nelson and Mamadou Ndiaye netted 13 and 11 points, respectively, while Alex Young handed out six assists.
For UCSB (18-8, 9-4), Alan Williams had 15 points, Kyle Boswell scored 14 on 4-of-9 from 3-point range and Michael Bryson poured in 11.
A tightly-contested first half ended with UCI holding to a 29-27 advantage despite getting outshot from the field, 45.8 percent to 30.4 percent. The Anteaters shot 13-of-14 from the free-throw line in the opening 20 minutes, compared to just 2-of-5 for the Gauchos.
After UCSB drained consecutive 3-pointers late in the second half, UCI held just a one-point lead with 2:26 left, but it ended the game on an 11-0 run to seal its fate.
The difference was made at the foul line, where UCI shot 24-of-30, while UCSB was a mere 6-of-14.