IRVINE, Calif. – Chris McNealy scored 17 points and UC Irvine defeated UC Santa Barbara 71-60 Thursday night in a matchup of the Big West's first-place teams.
Will Davis II added 14 points, Luke Nelson 13 and Mamadou Ndiaye 11 for the Anteaters (19-10, 10-3).
UCI made 24 of 30 free throws and outrebounded a UCSB team 36-26 that had the nation's leading rebounder coming in, Alan Williams (12.0). Williams had 15 points but only six boards despite the 7-foot-6 Ndiaye playing only 19 minutes because of foul trouble.
UCI has a one-game lead over UCSB and Long Beach State with three remaining.
A 7-2 run gave UCI a 59-52 lead with 4:52 left. The Gauchos (18-8, 9-4) got within 61-60 at 2:26 but didn't score again while UCI's Alex Young scored five of his seven points the rest of the way.
Kyle Boswell added 14 points and Michael Bryson 11 for UCSB.