UCSD led by five with just over a minute remaining, but the visitors scored eight points in the final 59 seconds to steal the victory and send the Tritons to their fourth consecutive defeat in heartbreaking fashion. James McCann scored a career-high 22 points to lead three players in double figures for UCSD, but it wasn't enough against the scrappy Pioneers.
Cal State East Bay improves to 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the CCAA with the win, while UCSD drops to 5-9 on the year and 1-8 in conference play.
"We had a great effort in the second half to get ourselves back into the game tonight," head coach Chris Carlson said. "There were a couple of things that just didn't go our way down the stretch, we gave up a couple key offensive rebounds, had a couple missed assignments, some things we've got to take care of, but I was very, very proud of our effort."
Samuels and Tre Mauldin scored 17 points apiece for the Pioneers, who have won three of their last four overall. Jacari Whitfield finished with 15 points, five rebounds and team-high five assists.
McCann was brilliant for the Tritons, scoring 15 points in the second half and overtime to lead UCSD back from a seven-point halftime deficit. He finished 8-of-17 from the floor and 5-of-7 at the foul line, while also dishing out seven assists and coming up with two steals.
Christian Hatch recorded his fourth double-double of the season, tallying 16 points and 14 rebounds. He hit 6-of-11 from the field and also finished with two blocks and two steals.
Justin Brue had a big night for the Tritons as well, finishing with 15 points, six boards, four assists, three blocks and two steals. He hit six of his eight shots from the field.
UCSD shot 50% (29-58) for the game, while CSUEB finished at a 40% (26-65). The Pioneers were 9-of-25 from the three-point line, while the Tritons converted just 3-of-16.
The Tritons trailed 39-32 at halftime, but rallied back to claim a 45-44 advantage on a layup by McCann with 14 and a half minutes remaining in regulation. UCSD led 54-51 following a bucket by Ryan Peters five minutes later, but Mauldin scored five straight points to give the visitors a 56-54 cushion with 7:37 remaining.
It was the Pioneers' final lead by more than one point in the game.
McCann hit two free throws to break a 67-67 tie with 1:27 left in the second half and, after two huge defensive stops for the Tritons, Hatch was fouled, earning the chance to put the game away with 10 seconds remaining. He made just one of two, leaving the door open for the Pioneers, who promptly capitalized on the opportunity as Whitfield found Jason Smith for the game-tying three-pointer with four seconds left.
After failing to seal the victory in regulation, the Tritons bounced right back in OT, scoring seven of the first nine points in the period. Tyler McGrath hit a huge three that gave UCSD 77-72 advantage with 1:07 left to play as the Tritons looked to have finally gotten the upper hand for good.
But the Pioneers came storming back as Samuels converted consecutive three-point plays to tie the game at 78 with 47 ticks left. McCann was fouled with 13 seconds on the clock, but he made just one of two, giving the Tritons a 79-78 lead.
Without calling a timeout, Samuels drove down and scored the go-ahead basket for Cal State East Bay with just six seconds left. McCann had one more shot at the would-be game-winner for the Tritons, but his attempt missed the mark and the visitors escaped with the improbable victory.
UCSD shot a total of 30 free throws in the game, but made just 18, 60%. Nine of those misses came in the second half and overtime.
"We've been the best three-point shooting team in the league and you go 18-of-30 in a one-point overtime game and that becomes very magnified," Carlson said.
The Tritons will look to bounce back when Cal State Monterey Bay pays a visit to RIMAC Arena on Saturday. The Otters are coming off an 84-62 defeat at Cal State San Bernardino on Friday.