ROHNERT PARK, Calif. -
Steven Pratt hit two free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining to lift Sonoma State to a 70-68 victory over UC San Diego on the final day of the regular season on Friday evening at The Wolves' Den on the SSU campus.
UCSD held an eight-point lead with just over five minutes remaining, but the Seawolves closed the game on a 14-4 run to steal the victory and hand the Tritons a second straight gut-wrenching defeat.
UC San Diego's season comes to an end at 10-17 overall and 6-16 in California Collegiate Athletic Association play. After winning three of five to start the month, the Tritons dropped their final three games and finish in 11th place in the conference standings for the second consecutive season.
Sonoma State wraps up the regular season at 16-10 overall and 14-8 in the CCAA, winning nine of its final 11 games. The Seawolves finished fourth in the league standings and will host No. 5 seed Cal State San Bernardino in the opening round of the CCAA Tournament on Tuesday evening.
After seeing a late six-point lead slip through their fingers in a narrow 72-68 loss at Humboldt State on Wednesday, Friday's game had an eerily similar feel to it as the Tritons were the better team for most of the second half, but couldn't hold off the Seawolves down the stretch.
"This was another very painful loss, but I couldn't be more proud of how our guys carried themselves both tonight and throughout the year," head coach Chris Carlson said. "We battled every night and tonight was no different, it just didn't go our way. Through it all, our group handled themselves with class and distinction and for that, I'm extremely pleased."
Pratt scored 22 points to lead four players in double figures for Sonoma State, finishing 6-of-12 from the field and 2-of-3 from the three-point line. He did the bulk of his scoring in the first half, but he came up with the decisive play in the waning moments, drawing a foul on MacKenzie McCullough on a base line drive and then sinking the game-winning free throws.
Justin Herold and Sterling Arterberry scored 13 points apiece for the Seawolves, while Will Oslem finished with 10.
Tyler McGrath was outstanding in a losing effort for the Tritons, finishing with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting. He canned 3-of-7 from behind the arc and hit all four of his free throws, while also grabbing four rebounds and coming up with two steals.
James McCann finished with 13 points, six boards and two assists, while Christian Hatch scored 10 points and hauled down a game-high eight rebounds.
UCSD trailed by as many as 10 points (34-24) in the first half, but rallied to within six at the break as McGrath hit a pair of free throws and Matt Bailey scored inside on the Tritons' final two possessions.
The Tritons carried that momentum into the second half, outscoring the Seawolves 16-6 over the first seven minutes to take a 48-44 advantage. Arterberry hit a three to bring SSU to within one at 52-51 less than four minutes later, but McCann answered with the next six points as UCSD took a 58-51 edge with 7:42 left to play.
The Tritons looked to be in complete control as McCann scored again to give UCSD a 64-56 edge, but the bottom fell out from there as Olsem found Brian Crow for a two-handed dunk that ignited an 8-2 Sonoma State rally that brought the home team to within 66-64 with three and a half minutes to play.
McCullough followed with two free throws to put the Tritons on top by four, but Arterberry sank two of his own and Patrick Scott got free inside to tie the game at 68 all with 1:40 left.
McGrath had a good look at a three on the Tritons' next trip, but he missed the mark, setting the stage for Pratt's heroics on the Seawolves' final possession.
Down two with six seconds left, UCSD had one last chance, but Bailey's long pass under the hoop was intercepted and SSU had the victory.
Sonoma State shot 51% (22-43) for the game, while UCSD finished at a 45.5% (25-55) clip. The Tritons hit 7-of-15 from downtown, 47%, but the Seawolves finished plus-nine at the foul line.
Friday's outcome marked UCSD's 10th game decided by five points or less this season, with the Tritons going 5-5 in those contests.