Huge Second Half Rally by Rice Stuns UCSB, 82-81

Matt Freeman (Photo by Eric Isaacs)
Matt Freeman (Photo by Eric Isaacs)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Payton Moore made a driving scoop shot with 2.5 seconds left to give visiting Rice University a stunning 82-81 come-from-behind win over UC Santa Barbara on Sunday afternoon. The basket by Moore completed huge 22-point second half rally.

The Gauchos (1-2) ended the first half on a 28-4 run to transform a 23-19 deficit into a 47-27 halftime lead. Amadou Sow then scored the first bucket of the second half to give his team a 49-27 edge, setting the stage for the huge comeback by the Owls (4-1) 

"Today was about defense," said UCSB head coach Joe Pasternack. "We have yet to show that we can play two halves of defense. In the second half today, they (Rice) just punked us. We shoot 56 percent and score 81 points. This was not about our offense. Make no mistake about it, this was about our defense." 

After a hot start, Rice cooled off in the final 10 minutes of the first half and shot 32.1%, but the second half was a different story as the Owls made 19-of-25 shots overall, 76.0%. They also used a barrage of three-point baskets to spark their rally, finishing 13-of-25 for the game, 52.0%, and 8-of-12 in the second half. 

Moore and Trey Murphy III each had 18 points to lead the visitors. Murphy was 5-for-8 from three-point range while Moore was 3-for-4. The latter also made 7-of-8 shots overall, including the game-winner.

The massive comeback by Rice overshadowed several good performances by UCSB players. Max Heidegger finished with 21 points on 9-of-16 from the field and 2-for-4 from three-point territory. Sow had 19 points and seven rebounds, while graduate transfer Matt Freeman had his best game as he tied career-highs with 15 points and five rebounds, and passed off for a game-high and career-high seven assists. 

As a team, Santa Barbara hit 34-of-61 field goal attempts, 55.7%, and 6-of-15 from outside the arc, 30.0%. The Owls also won the rebound battle, 31-29. 

The Gauchos return to action on Wednesday, Nov. 20 when they travel to Oregon State for a game that will tip-off at 7:00 p.m. and air on the Pac-12 Network.