SANTA CRUZ (2-20) – On a day that the Banana Slugs' men's basketball team honored three seniors, it was a freshman that led the way as the Banana Slugs hosted West Coast Baptist College. The Banana Slugs won their final game of the 2015-2016 season 85-74.
This game was a rematch of a game that was played on January 9th in Lancaster which the Banana Slugs won 90-82. In their last game, UC Santa Cruz won 74-64 over Illinois Institute of Technology last Saturday in Chicago while the Eagles played Thursday in Lancaster against Portland Bible College.
In the first half, the Banana Slugs would start the game on a 10-2 run capped by a Sam Gabbard jumper with 18:56 left in the half. The Banana Slugs would gain their largest lead of the half at nine, at 16-7, on a Jared Ponce three pointer with 17:56 left in the half. From that point, the Eagles would go on a 12-0 run, capped by a Levi Tyrrell layup with 13:22 left in the half, to give the Eagles a 19-16 lead. The three point margin would be the Eagles' largest lead of the ballgame. The two teams would trade baskets through the next several possessions. The Banana Slugs would take the lead for good, at 31-30, on a Will Crain free throw with 3:16 left in the half. The Banana Slugs would lead 40-36 at the halftime break.
In the second half, the Banana Slugs would hold the Eagles at arms' length. The Banana Slugs would expand their lead to double digits, at 54-43, on a Jared Ponce layup with 15:45 left. The Banana Slugs would gain their largest lead of the ballgame at fourteen, at 64-50, on a Corey Cilia layup with 11:12 left. The Eagles would come as close as six, at 75-69, on an Imaan Vicente free throw with 2:25 left. The contest would take a much more serious tone with forty nine seconds left as Vicente committed a flagrant one foul as he undercut Crain as Crain attempted a dunk. Crain would make one of two ensuing free throws to make the score 80-69. The Banana Slugs would win 85-74 for their second consecutive win.
Crain had a double-double with a game high twenty-eight points and eleven rebounds. Crain finished the year as the first freshman to lead the Banana Slugs in scoring since Ryan Matsuoka in 2007-08. Vicente had a double double with twenty-four points and a game high twelve rebounds for the Eagles. The three seniors that were honored today – Jeremy McGirr, Jared Ponce and Matthew Ponce – combined for twenty-seven points with Jared Ponce having fifteen points, McGirr having five, and Matthew Ponce scoring two. Cilia had fifteen points off the bench. Daniel Foster had twenty for the Eagles.
The Banana Slugs shot 47.1% (33-70) from the field, 31.6% (6-19) from the three-point line and was 65% (13-20) from the free throw line. The Eagles shot 39.7% (25-63) from the field, 31.8% (7-22) from the three-point line and 60.7% (17-28) from the foul line. UC Santa Cruz's defense forced eighteen turnovers by the Eagles scoring twenty three points off the turnovers while the Eagles' defense forced thirteen turnovers by UC Santa Cruz scoring sixteen points off the turnovers. UC Santa Cruz outrebounded West Coast Baptist 42-40 and the Banana Slugs had nineteen more points off the bench (33-14) than did the Eagles.
The Banana Slugs finishes the 2015-2016 season with a 10-15 record. The ten wins marks the second season in a row that the Banana Slugs have finished with ten plus victories.