Guard James Powell's 3-pointer over Adams at the top of the key with four-tenths of a second remaining won it for the Big West Conference favorite Gauchos (6-1) and set off a wild celebration by UCSB students who stormed the court.
"I didn't really see it go in because I fell to the floor," Powell, who connected on 5 of 9 3-pointers to finish with 15 points, said. "I heard the reaction, and that's when I knew it went in. … I've never had an adrenalin rush like that in my life."
"I was all up into him," Adams, one of the Mountain West Conference's top defenders, said. "He jumped over the top of me and just knocked down the shot."
Adams, who finished with 11 points on just 4 of 14 shooting, had missed a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left that would have given UNLV (4-2) the lead.
"We got the play that we wanted," Adams said. "We made the extra pass. I was wide open. It felt good. It just went in-and-out."
"(Adams) shot it well," UNLV head coach Lon Kruger said. "Just in-and-out. We'll take that any time."
The fact the game even came down to a last-second shot was pretty amazing considering how the Runnin' Rebels thoroughly dominated the game defensively in the first half.
UNLV went into intermission with a 26-16 edge after holding the Gauchos to just one field goal over the final 13½ minutes while putting together a 17-3 run. UC Santa Barbara shot a pitiful 20.7 percent (6 of 29) from the floor and made just one of its last 15 field goal tries.
The Runnin' Rebels twice extended the lead to 13 points in the second half, the last time on a Curtis Terry 3-point basket with 12:20 to go that made it 44-31.
"They made a ton of three's down the stretch," Kruger said. "We've got to step up and guard them a little better. … You've got to extend a little farther and contest (shots) a little stronger."
"The first half is how we wanted to play (defensively) the whole game," Adams said. "(But) in the second half, we slacked off and let them run their offense."
Kruger said he hopes his team learned a valuable lesson in the bitter loss.
"When you're on the road and get a lead, you've got to lock down and get a bigger lead," Kruger said. "It's a tough lesson to learn from, and hopefully we will."