SANTA CRUZ (2-11) – UC Santa Cruz finished up their 2017-18 regular season schedule defeating NAIA opponent Simpson University 79-65 before a raucous crowd at West Field House. The Banana Slugs honored their seven seniors – Corey Cilia, Kyle Creighton, Sam Gabbard, Andrew Jones, Adam Marlow, Matthew Nerland and Tre Weston – before the game.
This game was a rematch of a game played on January 8th in Redding won by the Banana Slugs 81-76.
In the first half, the RedHawks started the game on a 7-2 spurt capped by a Brandon Waterford three-pointer with 16:49 left in the half that was the RedHawks' largest lead of the game. The teams traded the lead for the next nine minutes. The Banana Slugs would take the lead at 24-23 on a Weston layup with 7:49 left. The Banana Slugs' largest lead of the half was four, at 27-23, on a Creighton three pointer with 7:21 left. The RedHawks went on a 9-2 run, capped by Noah Baxter's three, to take the lead at 32-29 and led 34-33 at halftime.
In the second half, the teams would trade the lead back and forth for the first ten minutes. The RedHawks took their largest lead of the half at four at 44-40 on a Waterford layup with 15:53 left. The Banana Slugs would take the lead for good at 48-46, on Gabbard's layup with 14:04 left. UCSC would gain a double digit lead at 65-54 on a Jones three-pointer with 6:45 left and gained their largest lead of the game at seventeen, at 79-62, on a Nerland free throw with fifty three seconds left.
Jones had a game high twenty-three points to lead the Banana Slugs. Cilia had twenty-one points and Gabbard had fifteen points and fifteen rebounds in the win.
Thomas Scriven and Waterford had fifteen points for the RedHawks.
The Banana Slugs shot 43.8% (28-64) from the field, 42.9% (15-35) on three-pointers and 80% (8-10) from the free throw line. The RedHawks shot 38.5% (25-65) from the field, 32.3% (10-31) from the three-point line and 55.6% (5-9) from the foul line. UC Santa Cruz outrebounded Simpson 49-27 and the Banana Slugs had thirteen more second chance points (18-5) than did the RedHawks.
The Slugs concluded the regular season with a school-record 17 wins and the seniors finished with 51 wins in four years, more than any other class.
"I'm proud of all the sacrifices everyone on this team made to have a special season this year," said head coach Ron Dubois. "I thought each of our seniors had a moment in the game that captured who they've been for us all year."
UCSC will now wait until February 26th to see if they make the 2018 NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Championship.